National Archives News

African American History

African American History month header graphic featuring a collection of images from the National Archives catalog


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 via traditional and social media.

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  records documenting this vast history through the African American Research page and within the National Archives Catalog



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

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 

AOTUS: Celebrating Black History Month: Hidden Gems

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

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

Hoover Heads: Desegregating the Commerce Department

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

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

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

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

Pieces of History: LBJ and MLK

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

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

Pieces of History: African American History at the National Archives

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

Text Message: African Americans and the American War for Independence

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

Text Message: Remembering Jonestown 40 Years Later

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

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

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

Unwritten Record: Spotlight: Celebrating Black History Month

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

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

Unwritten Record: 60 Years On: The Little Rock Nine

Unwritten Record: Making The March

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

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