February marks Black History Month, a time to reflect upon the history and teachings of African Americans whose contributions are still too little known. Below, you'll find a wide variety of biographical resources that paint a picture of African-American history and celebrate its leaders.
Civil Rights Leaders
In the 1960s, students marched for equal rights, George Wallace gained international notoriety as the segregationist governor of Alabama and Jim Crow laws prevailed in the South. Drinking fountains, theaters, hotels, schools and restaurants were separate and unequal, despite the fact that the Supreme Court had ruled segregation in public schools unconstitutional in 1954 (Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka). During this period, black and white citizens participated in nonviolent acts of protest against racial discrimination. This period would be remembered as the civil rights movement. A History Channel video gives a history of the celebrations of this month.
Some of the most well-known figures in black history were civil rights leaders. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a powerful leader of nonviolent protests against discrimination. It is nearly the 80th anniversary King's birth, and The Seattle Times has developed an outstanding guide to his life with background information, a study guide and an interactive quiz. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University brings together hundreds of primary and secondary works about King and his movement in one spot. Another individual who fought a life-long battle for the equality of black Americans was Malcolm X. His official site offers a biography of Malcolm X and related links to resources on black nationalism and the civil rights movement.
Arts and Literature
Many sites bring African-American authors to life. African-American Women Writers of the 19th Century has digitized 52 works by 19th-century black women writers. The site is published by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library and provides access to the thought, perspectives and creative abilities of black women as captured in books and pamphlets published prior to 1920. The full-text collection is fully searchable.
The following sites are devoted to individual African-American authors:
Paul Laurence Dunbar Paul Laurence Dunbar was the first African-American to gain national eminence as a poet. Born in 1872 in Dayton, Ohio, he was the son of ex-slaves and classmate to two other Dayton men who gained national prominence -- Orville and Wilbur Wright.
Gwendolyn Brooks Academy of American Poets exhibit on the author of more than 20 books of poetry. Includes a link to teacher resources. Also offers information for Maya Angelou and many others.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Online Archives tells the story of the invisible men of pre-integration baseball. The term "Negro Leagues" generally encompasses virtually all professional, all-Negro baseball teams operating between 1880 and 1955. To learn more about the individual personalities of the Negro Leagues, visit the Negro Leagues Players Gallery. When Willie Mays joined the New York Giants in 1951, black players were still a rarity in the major leagues. For a full profile of the baseball Hall-of-Famer, visit the Academy of Achievement.
The 366th Infantry Regiment was an all-black unit that toured North Africa and Italy during World War II. The 366th Infantry Regiment Home Page was put together by the son of the president of the 366th Infantry Regiment Veterans Association, and highlights the achievements of the all-black Infantry regiment.
The New York Public Library brings notable figures to life in its Images of African-Americans from the 19th Century collection. The images are part of a digital collection from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Once you've had a chance to explore these sites, test your knowledge at the Internet African American History Challenge. The "open book" test quizzes visitors on figures of African-American history. Educators can even create an online grade book to manage class progress.