National Archives News

African American History

Remembering African American month header graphic featuring a portrait of Frederick Dopuglas.

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

Frederick Douglass

February 14, 2018, marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass. Born into slavery in Maryland as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, he escaped as a young man and took the surname Douglass. He published several books, including his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.

Douglass became an orator and leader of the abolition movement. He was also an advocate for the equality of rights for all people. He attended the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention and he and his family advocated for woman suffrage.

During the Civil War, two of Douglass's sons traveled to Massachusetts to join the 54th Infantry. Charles Douglass transferred to the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry, and Lewis Douglass was the sergeant major of the 54th and was wounded in the assault on Fort Wagner.

After the Civil War, Frederick Douglass was nominated for Vice President by the Equal Rights Party and appointed to several political positions, including Minister Resident and Counsel General to Haiti in 1889.

 

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

 

As we celebrate African American history month this February, we pay tribute to the struggles and achievements of the people and events that have shaped our nation.  Explore our collection of records documenting this vast history within the National Archives catalog.

 

Accordion

Martin Luther King Clip Reel

Nine short stories on Martin Luther King, Jr., produced by the USIA for Black History month. Stories include: King holiday; wreath-laying at the Lincoln Memorial; Jesse Jackson on MLK; King/Civil Rights; Reagan speaking to schoolchildren; MLK bust unveiled at the Capitol; Andrew Young reflects; MLK celebration/Atlanta;and MLK celebration/Washington, DC.

Martin Luther King Press Conference

Martin Luther King, Jr., was interviewed by four journalists for “Press Conference U.S.A.,” a U.S. Information Agency (USIA) series that was distributed internationally.

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.

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.

Emancipation Proclamation 150th Anniversary at the National Archives

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

Additional Resources

Overview of Black History resources on Archives.gov 

Guide to Black History

Freedmen's Bureau Records

African American Research: Highlights from Our Collection

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

NARA Flickr: Civil Rights March on Washington, DC, August 28, 1963

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

Pictures of African Americans During World War II


From the Center for Legislative Archives

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

William J. Clinton Library

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

George W. Bush Library

George W. Bush Library - African American History Archive

President Discusses Black History Month in Radio Address

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

Lyndon B. Johnson Library

A Conversation between LBJ and Martin Luther King, Jr., 11/25/63

Documents Relating to the movie Selma

John F. Kennedy Library

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

 

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