National Archives News

African American History

Banner for Black History Month

Photograph of White House Meeting with Civil Rights Leaders. June 22, 1963.

The National Archives holds a wealth of material documenting the African American experience and highlights these resources online, in programs, and through traditional and social media.

Explore our records documenting African American History through the African American Research page and within the National Archives Catalog. See more resources on the Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday page and the Juneteenth page.

Featured Video

Military service and pension records help tell the story of Charles Sprout, a soldier in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) during the Civil War.


Rediscovering Black History: The blog of the Black History Guide, shares records relating to the African American experience at the National Archives

AOTUS: Celebrating Black History Month: Hidden Gems

AOTUS: Celebrating Black History Month 

Annotations: Digitizing Boston’s Desegregation Records for the Classroom

Education Updates: Kidnapping of Free People of Color

Education Updates: We Shall Overcome: Anxiety and Optimism for the March on Washington

Education Updates: Jackie Robinson & Civil Rights

Education Updates: Striking Down “Freedom of Choice” Plans for School Desegregation: Green v. New Kent County

Ford in Focus: Recognition of Black History Month

Forward with Roosevelt: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Battle to End Lynching

FDR Library Tumblr: 1941–Plans for a March on Washington 

Hoover Heads: Mary Bethune: Adviser to PresidentsHoover Heads: Desegregating the Commerce Department

JFK Library Archives: Making the March on Washington, August 28, 1963

JFK Library Archives: “Understand Our Urgency:” Oral Histories by Black Americans

National Archives News: Records Help Honor Legacy of Trailblazing Black Physician

National Archives News: Philadelphia 15 Exonerated Thanks to NARA Personnel Records Research

National Archives News: In Memoriam: Harry Belafonte (1927–2023)

National Archives News: Bisa Butler Quilts Harlem Hellfighters into History

National Archives News: In Memoriam: Nichelle Nichols (1932–2022)

National Archives News: Noted Historian Discusses Juneteenth’s Place in American History

National Archives News: Featured Document: Remembering the Tulsa Race Massacre

National Archives News: National Archives Unveils Photos of Buffalo Soldiers at West Point

National Archives News: Pandemic Telework Project Sparks Increase in Black History Records Accessibility

National Archives News: National Archives Safeguards Original ‘Juneteenth’ General Order

National Archives News: Confederate Slave Payrolls Shed Light on Lives of 19th-Century African American Families

National Archives News: Journalist Shares Stories Behind Civil Rights Cold Cases

NDC Blog: Lionel Hampton, Jazz Legend and President’s “Ambassador of Goodwill”

Pieces of History: Celebrating African Artists at the National Archives

Pieces of History: Facial Hair Friday: Carlton Chapman and the Ultimate Sacrifice

Pieces of History: Historic Staff Spotlight: Lucille Joppy

Pieces of History: Dr. Charles Drew: A Pioneer in Blood Transfusions

Pieces of History: Historic Staff Spotlight: Josef C. James

Pieces of History: Historic Staff Spotlight: Robert L. Clarke

Pieces of History: Marian Anderson’s 1939 Easter Concert

Pieces of History: Historic Staff Spotlight: Lillian Grandy

Pieces of History: Facial Hair Friday: Robert Smalls

Pieces of History: LGBTQ+ History Month: Barbara Jordan

Pieces of History: James Baldwin and Freedom Summer

Pieces of History: Facial Hair Friday: The Honorable Thurgood Marshall

Pieces of History: The Fight for the Right to Marry: The Loving v. Virginia Case

Pieces of History: We Remember Civil Rights Legend John Lewis

Pieces of History: The Tulsa Massacre

Pieces of History: New York City U.S. Custom House Employee: Matthew Henson

Pieces of History: Mae Jemison: First Black Woman in Space

Pieces of History: The Gridlock of Racial Segregation: When the Light Turns from Brown to Green

Pieces of History: 19th Amendment at 100: Mary Church Terrell

Pieces of History: Victory at Home and Abroad: Combating Segregation in the Armed Forces

Pieces of History: Marjorie S. Joyner: More than an Inventor

Pieces of History: The Maker of Pilots: Aviator and Civil Rights Activist Willa Beatrice Brown

Pieces of History: “Forgotten Soldier” at American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

Pieces of History: The “Roots” of Genealogy at the National Archives

Pieces of History: Facial Hair Friday: George Washington Carver’s Nuts for Peanuts!

Pieces of History: Facial Hair Friday: Joseph Rainey the First African American in the House

Pieces of History: LBJ and MLK

Pieces of History: Bienvenue à Port-au-Prince, Monsieur Douglass

Pieces of History: His Was “Service Honest and Faithful, Character Excellent”

Pieces of History: Black History Month: The 54th Massachusetts

Pieces of History: Facial Hair Friday: In Honor of MLK

Pieces of History: Honoring Justice Thurgood Marshall: The Right Man and the Right Place

Pieces of History: The Drawings of Charles Alston

Pieces of History: African American History at the National Archives

Pieces of History: An Act to Establish the NMAAHC

Pieces of History: Celebrating the Life of an Ancestor Who Was a “12 Years a Slave”

Pieces of History: January 18, 1964–Martin Luther King Jr. & LBJ

Preservation at the National Archives Tumblr: MLK's Selective Service System Draft Card

Today's Document: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Portrait

Text Message: Records Related to African American History in the National Register of Historic Places

Text Message: Remembering Jonestown 40 Years Later

Text Message: Keyes v. School District Number One, Denver, Colorado: Eliminating the “Root and Branch” of School Segregation

Text Message: War of Words: Race-Based Propaganda During World War II

Text Message: The Department of State Reports on the George Foreman-Muhammad Ali Fight (‘The Rumble in the Jungle’) 1974

Text Message: Firefly Project and the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion (“Smoke Jumpers”)

Text Message: NAACP vs the Washington DC Police Department

Text Message: African Americans and the American War for Independence

Unwritten Record: Unnoticed: African Americans in Union Army Camps During the Civil War

Unwritten Record: African American Women in the Military During WWII

Unwritten Record: Now Showing: George Washington Carver on Kodachrome

Unwritten Record: Stock Footage Spotlight: Historically Black Colleges and Universities in WWII

Unwritten Record: Cartographic Records Relating to African American History

Unwritten Record: 60 Years On: The Little Rock Nine

Unwritten Record: A Brief Look at African American Soldiers in the Great War

Unwritten Record: Spotlight: Celebrating Black History Month

Unwritten Record: African American Filmmaker William Greaves on Booker T. Washington & Frederick Douglass

Unwritten Record: Dr. Paul Owen: The First PHS Optometrist

Unwritten Record: Making The March

Education Updates: Kidnapping of Free People of Color

Education Updates: We Shall Overcome: Anxiety and Optimism for the March on Washington

Education Updates: Jackie Robinson & Civil Rights

Education Updates: Striking Down “Freedom of Choice” Plans for School Desegregation: Green v. New Kent County

Young Learners Program: Meet the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lesson Plans & Teaching Activities

The Slave Trade

The Amistad Case

Oh Freedom! Sought Under the Fugitive Slave Act

The Fugitive Slave Act

From Slave to Soldier: The Story of Hubbard Pryor

Black Soldiers in the Civil War (1)

Black Soldiers in the Civil War (2)

Comparing Civil War Recruitment Posters

From Slavery to Juneteenth: Emancipation and Ending Enslavement

Comparing and Contrasting the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th Amendment and General Order No. 3

Juneteenth General Order

Congress and Harriet Tubman's Claim for a Pension

The Freedmen's Bureau

To What Extent was Reconstruction a Revolution? (1)

To What Extent was Reconstruction a Revolution? (2)

From Dred Scott to the Civil Rights Act of 1875

Confronting Workplace Discrimination on the WWII Home Front

Integration of the U.S. Armed Forces

Analyzing Jackie Robinson's White House Letter

Analyzing a Photograph of Jackie Robinson

Analyzing a Letter from Jackie Robinson: "Fair Play and Justice"

Responding to the Murder of Harry T. Moore

Rosa Parks's Arrest Record

Examining Where Rosa Parks Sat

1963 March on Washington

The Impact of Bloody Sunday in Selma

Analyzing a Letter to Congress About Bloody Sunday

Congress Protects the Right to Vote: The Voting Rights Act of 1965

Martin Luther King Jr. and Memphis Sanitation Workers

Education - Presidential Libraries

Kennedy Library: Leaders in the Struggle for Civil Rights - Martin Luther King Jr.

Reagan Library: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Truman Library: Desegregation of the Armed Forces

Truman Library: Harry Truman and Civil Rights

Truman Library: The President's Committee on Civil Rights

Truman Library: Freedom to Serve: Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services

The March (1963, restored)

To mark the 50th anniversary of the March for Jobs and Freedom, the Motion Picture Preservation Lab completed a full digital restoration of James Blue's monumental film, The March, in 2008.

The March on Washington in Photographs

This Inside the Vaults video short follows the subject of the photograph, Edith Lee-Payne of Detroit, who celebrated her 12th birthday by attending the March on Washington with her mother.

"Civil Rights: Then and Now"

Highlights of the National Conversation on Rights and Justice in Atlanta in 2016. Moderated by Jelani William Cobb, contributing editor to the New Yorker and associate professor of history and the director of the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Connecticut.

DC Emancipation Act

African American Life in Washington, DC, Before Emancipation 

Madame C. J. Walker in the National Archives

A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

Revolutionary Movements Then and Now: Black Power and Black Lives Matter

The 14th Amendment’s Shield of National Protection

Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad

Lincoln's Gamble: How the Emancipation Proclamation Changed the Course of the Civil War

Facing Slavery’s Legacy at Georgetown University

Protecting America's Treasures: Black History in the Vault

The Young Learners Program: Meet The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Additional Resources

African American Research: Highlights from Our Collection

Overview of Black History resources on 

Guide to Black History

Freedmen's Bureau Records

African Americans - Reference Reports

Black Family Research: Records of Post–Civil War Federal Agencies at the National Archives

Black Power Subject Portal

Findings on the MLK Assassination

The Modern Civil Rights Movement (National Archives at Chicago)

Checklist of Records Available for Research on African-American History at the National Archives at Atlanta

Researching Slavery and Freedom in the National Archives at Philadelphia

Military Resources: Blacks in the Military

Records of Military Agencies Relating to African Americans from the Post-World War I Period to the Korean War

Photos of Buffalo Soldiers at West Point

Pictures of African Americans During World War II

From the Center for Legislative Archives

Congress in the Archives Tumblr: Posts Relating to African American History

Benjamin Franklin's Petition to Congress asking for the Abolition of Slavery

Petition for Universal Suffrage

Claim of Harriet Tubman

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Congress and the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Congress and the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Presidential Libraries

Donald J. Trump Library

Proclamation on Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday, 2021

Proclamation on National African American History Month, 2020

Presidential Proclamation on National African American History Month, 2019

Barack Obama Library

Dedication of the National Museum of African American History

Civil Rights Summit at LBJ Library Keynote Address, 4/10/2014

George W. Bush Library

George W. Bush Library - African American History Archive

President Discusses Black History Month in Radio Address

William J. Clinton Library

Clinton Digital Library: Black Americans

Remarks by Vice President Al Gore on Martin Luther King Day, 1/17/2000

George H.W. Bush Library

Civil Rights (Bush Presidential) 

Civil Rights (Bush Vice Presidential) 

Civil Rights (Rev. Thaddeus Garrett Files) 

George H.W. Bush Library - Justice Clarence Thomas Nomination. 

Ronald Reagan Library

Reagan Library - Proclamation 5431: Establishing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 1/18/86

President Reagan's remarks at the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Signing, 11/2/83

President Reagan's Remarks at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School on 1/15/86

President Reagan's Radio Address to the Nation on Martin Luther King Jr. on 1/18/86

President Reagan's Address on Martin Luther King's Birthday from the Oval Office, 1/15/87

Ronald Reagan Library Topic Guide: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Gerald R. Ford Library

"Inclusive America, Under Attack," New York Times, 8/8/1999

President Ford's Message on the Observance of Black History Week, 1975

President Ford's Message on the Observance of Black History Month, 1976

Lyndon B. Johnson Library

Tumblr Posts Relating to African American History

Documents and telephone conversations relating to Martin Luther King, Jr.

LBJ and Martin Luther King Jr. speak after JFK's assassination (November 25, 1963)

LBJ and Martin Luther King Jr. discuss the Voting Rights Act (January 15, 1965)

John F. Kennedy Library

Civil Rights Movement

Robert F. Kennedy’s Statement (with audio) on Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Correspondence between Martin Luther King Jr. and the White House

Dwight D. Eisenhower Library

Eisenhower Library images on Civil Rights

Marian Anderson sings the National Anthem at the 1957 Inauguration

Eisenhower’s Civil Rights Legacy program, 9/24/2011

Civil Rights Act of 1957

Brown v. Board of Education

Citizens' Letters on the Little Rock Crisis

Civil Rights and the Little Rock Integration Crisis

Civil Rights and the Eisenhower Administration

Civil Rights and the Emmett Till Case

Harry S. Truman Library

The President’s Committee on Civil Rights

Harry S. Truman and Civil Rights

Harry S. Truman Desegregation of the Armed Forces 

Franklin D. Roosevelt Library

Eleanor Roosevelt and the Tuskegee Airmen

Eleanor Roosevelt and Marian Anderson

Herbert Hoover Library

“Echoes of the Voice of Martin Luther King Jr. Live with and Speak to Us” 2013

“Civil Rights Under Three Hats: The Photography of Matt Heron” 2014

“A Soldier’s Story” 2013

“Harriet Tubman” 2013

"Ike's Final Battle: The Road to Little Rock and the Challenge of Equality by Kasey S. Pipes"  2008

“African-America: One Collector’s Experience” 2004

Prologue Resources for African American History


Safe for Democracy: Black National Guard Soldiers in the Great War (Winter 2017–18)

Tracing an Atrocity: How an Obscure Affidavit in the National Archives Unraveled a Historical Mystery (Summer 2017)

Testing the 15th Amendment (Winter 2016)

Tea and Equality (Summer 2015)

The Scottsboro Boys: Injustice in Alabama (Spring 2014)

Ancestors from the West Indies (Fall/Winter 2013) 

The Rejection of Elizabeth Mason: The Case of a “Free Colored” Revolutionary Widow (Summer 2011)

Slavery and Emancipation in the Nation’s Capital (Spring 2010)

No Pensions for Ex-Slaves (Summer 2010)

In Freedom’s Shadow (Fall 2010)

Face to Face with History (Fall 2009)

Lynching: Ida B. Wells-Barnett and the Outrage over the Frazier Baker Murder (Fall 2008)

Jim Crow, Meet Lieutenant Robinson: A 1944 Court-Martial (Spring 2008)

Exodus to Kansas (Summer 2008)

"Pre-Bureau" Records and Civil War African American Genealogy (Summer 2007)

Voices of Emancipation: Union Pension Files Giving Voice to Former Slaves (Winter 2005)

Finding Place for the Negro: Robert C. Weaver and the Groundwork for the Civil Rights (Spring 2005)

Sealing the Sacred Bonds of Holy Matrimony: Freedmen's Bureau Marriage Records (Spring 2005)

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka: A Landmark Case Unresolved Fifty Years Later (Spring 2004)

“Incited by the Love of Liberty”: The Amistad Captives and the Federal Courts (Spring 2003)

The Freedmen’s Bureau Preservation Project (Summer 2002)

Black Men in Navy Blue During the Civil War (Fall 2001)

The Rost Home Colony, St. Charles Parish, Louisiana (Fall 2001)

Researching African Americans in the U.S. Army, 1866–1890: Buffalo Soldiers and Black Infantrymen (Spring 2001)

Living with the Hydra: The Documentation of Slavery and the Slave Trade in Federal Records (Winter 2000) 

Garrison’s Constitution: The Covenant with Death and How It Was Made (Winter 2000)

Racial Identity and the Case of Captain Michael Healy, USRCS (Fall 1997) 

The Emancipation Proclamation: An Act of Justice (Summer 1993) 

Marriage Registers of Freedmen (Fall 1973)