2015 Press Releases

National Archives Celebrates Black History Month in February
Press Release · Friday, January 30, 2015

Washington, DC

The National Archives celebrates Black History Month in February with special public programs including film screenings, book talks, and records lectures. All are free and open to the public and will be held in the William G. McGowan Theater of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC. These events will also be streamed live via YouTube. Attendees should use the Special Events entrance, located on Constitution Avenue at 7th Street, NW. The building is fully accessible. Metro: Yellow or Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial station.

BOOK TALK: Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad
Tuesday, February 3, at 7 p.m.
Author Eric Foner builds on fresh evidence—including a secret, detailed record of slave escapes—to tell the dramatic story of fugitive slaves and the antislavery activists who defied the law to help them reach freedom. Ed Ayers, President of the University of Richmond, will moderate a panel including Mr. Foner, professor of history at Columbia University; Edna Greene Medford, professor of history at Howard University; and Adam Rothman, associate professor of history at Georgetown University. A book signing will follow the program.

BOOK TALK: Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black
Tuesday, February 10, at noon
From his humble beginnings in Sumter, South Carolina, to his prominence on the Washington, D.C., political scene as the third highest-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, U.S. Congressman James E. Clyburn has led an extraordinary life. In Blessed Experiences, Clyburn tells in his own inspirational words how an African American boy from the Jim Crow-era South was able to beat the odds to achieve great success and become, as President Barack Obama describes him, “one of a handful of people who, when they speak, the entire Congress listens.”

RECORDS TALK: 50th Anniversaries of Voting Rights
Thursday, February 12, at 2 p.m.
In recognition of the 50th anniversaries of the Selma to Montgomery March and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, archivist Tina Ligon will discuss National Archives records that document these pivotal events in American history.

BOOK TALK: Redemption Songs: Suing for Freedom before Dred Scott
Friday, February 13, at noon, William G. McGowan Theater & YouTube
The Dred Scott case is the most well-known example of a slave suing for freedom, but it was just one of many freedom lawsuits in the antebellum period. Legal scholar Lea VanderVelde discusses 12 never-before analyzed cases. A book signing will follow the program.

RECORDS TALK: Protecting America’s Treasures: Black History in the Vault
Tuesday, February 24, at 2 p.m.
Archives specialist Netisha Currie will discuss the National Archives’ extensive holdings relating to Black History.

BOOK TALK: A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life
Friday, February 27, at noon
Between the eighteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, countless African Americans passed as white, leaving behind families and friends, roots and community. Historian Allyson Hobbs explores the possibilities and challenges that racial indeterminacy presented to men and women living in a country obsessed with racial distinctions. A book signing will follow the program.

New permanent exhibition features section on civil rights for African Americans

The new permanent exhibit at the National Archives, “Records of Rights,” uses original documents, photographs, facsimiles, videos, and interactive exhibits to explore how Americans have worked to realize the ideals of freedom enshrined in our nation’s founding documents and how they have debated issues such as citizenship, free speech, voting rights, and equal opportunity. A special section of this exhibit, “Bending toward Justice,” showcases the drive for civil rights for African Americans.

Selected related online resources

  • Check out the National Archives blog, Rediscovering Black History.
  • See the online Guide to genealogy resources for Black history-related research
  • See the Flickr album highlighting Black History-related images at the National Archives.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, popularly known as the Freedmen's Bureau, was established in 1865 by Congress to help former black slaves and poor whites in the South in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War (1861-65). These records are the most extensive documentary source available for investigating the African American experience in the post-Civil War and Reconstruction eras.
    • See images from these records.
    • Read the Prologue Magazine article about the project to preserve and digitize this collection.
  • See the Center for Legislative Archives’ Congress and Harriet Tubman's Claim for a Pension “Congress in History” lesson plan.

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