African American History

Sepia-toned photo of young African American man in U.S. Marine Corps uniform
Like many young men during World War II, Calvin Curtis and his fraternal twin brother, Clarence, were drafted in 1943. They were juniors in...
Conservator sews linen thread along the spine of the Caramelo Deportivo album
In preparation for an exhibition, all objects undergo a thorough assessment of their condition. Conservators determine whether the objects...
Cover of the Caramelo Deportivo baseball card album decorated with illustrations of player and related baseball ephemera
Caramelo Deportivo baseball card album after treatment by conservation technician Verónica Mercado Oliveras. The album contains cards of...
Two images. On the left, a small metal badge, decorated with an engraved star and other small line flourishes. The main engraving reads "Niagra, F. C., No. 8, 1861, W. P. P." On the right, an ornamental silver trumpet.
It’s late winter of 2006 and an ornate silver speaking trumpet is on offer at a prestigious New York City auction house. The engraved...
Wagon panels with faded artwork advertising a traveling production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, leaning against a wall outside a building
During my time at the museum’s object conservation lab, I discovered that a set of painted panels in the museum’s collection had quite a...
Anna Dickinson, seated
On a Saturday evening in January 1864, abolitionist Anna Dickinson stood inside the Hall of Representatives looking out into the U.S. House...
Joan Trumpauer Mulholland
Last year I began working as a stage manager for Join the Student Sit-Ins, an interactive theater program at the museum set in 1960. The...
Street signs in Washington, D.C.
The writers of the Black Life in Two Pandemics series have examined the deep roots of racial violence in the Midwest and the connections...
Posters in Washington D.C.
IntroductionOur political and legal systems are inextricably intertwined with and fueled by structural racism. This legacy predates the...
“George Floyd,” by Peyton Scott Russell
In March 2020, the Urban Art Mapping research team, a small group of faculty and students from the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul,...
Fort Snelling
Minnesota doesn’t typically come to mind when you think about slavery and the Civil War. It’s also not a place that’s figured into the...
Man carrying a box outside a food distribution center
With the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing civil unrest, historians, educators, and the general public once again fixated on the “long...
Destruction by fire of Pennsylvania Hall
"Destruction by fire of Pennsylvania Hall, the new building of the Abolition Society, on the night of the 17th May," courtesy of Library of...
Black Life in Two Pandemics: Histories of Violence
George Floyd’s Memorial Day 2020 killing by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin shook the nation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the...
Room with medical staff and patients in Freedmen's Hospital
Racism has been a public health emergency in America for over 400 years. We can call it a crisis or disaster or something else entirely....
For John Lewis, activism for social change was a communal activity. He believed that people coming together to mentor, protest, and learn...
Chef Lena Richard and others filming a television segment
Lena Richard was an African American chef who built a culinary empire in New Orleans during the Jim Crow era. She reshaped public...
Newspaper clipping
Note: While history shouldn’t require a spoiler alert, this blog does contain some minor ones regarding the HBO series Watchmen.“You know...
Anti-Suffrage pendant
The trouble began soon after well-known social reformer Emily Bissell had finished her remarks at the meeting of the National Association...
Maybe this painting looks familiar. A long row of red-coated soldiers. A cloud of gun smoke engulfing the street. Falling bodies.Detail of...
Maggie Lena Walker was one of the most important Black businesswomen in the nation, and today too few people have heard of her.Maggie Lena...
An illustration of Civil War-era African American troops in the U.S. military posing with the U.S. flag in the background
Every election season in the United States revolves around a set of issues—health care, foreign affairs, the economy. In 1868, at the...
A line of people wait outside the Baltimore branch of the NAACP in 1843
In 2020, the Fifteenth Amendment—the first voting rights amendment added to the U.S. Constitution—celebrates its 150th anniversary. You’ve...
If you were to buy a donut and cup of coffee at the Donut Bar in the Royal Grand Hotel in Monrovia, Liberia, you would more than likely pay...
Square banner for boxer John L. Sullivan showing flags and the phrases “Champion of the world…May the best man win”
There has been a lot of debate over the last few years about whether sports should be political. From NFL players taking a knee to a range...
Three political ribbons with red, yellow, and blue colors, all showing illustrations of James Buchanan
James Buchanan. Do you recognize this name? According to TIME magazine’s “Top 10 Forgettable Presidents,” you probably don’t. Chances are,...
These are our most fascinating blog posts of 2018, according to our readers.When FBI agents showed up with a pair of sparkly, red shoesA...
An illustration of an African American soldier
Suffering from "shell shock and a general breakdown," Charles Mackall and James Randall arrived in Philadelphia in September 1918 from...
Signed baseball
"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?" – Satchel PaigeWith a professional baseball career spanning the jazz age to the...
Musical inspiration abounds in the collections and exhibitions around us. As interns in the Making American Music project, we get to follow...
Photo of album cover featuring Aretha Franklin shown in four reflections with stained glass background
Today we're reflecting on the life of singer, songwriter, diva, civil rights activist, and cultural icon Aretha Franklin. Over 100 of...
Sheet music cover, 'Get off the track!'
Turn right at the Batmobile. Take the elevator behind the John Bull locomotive. If you hit Julia Child's kitchen, you've gone too far. My...
A yellowed page with black text announcing the "Grand Concert in aid of the Russian Jewish Refugees"
The arts are "a space where we can give dignity to others while interrogating our own circumstances," Darren Walker, president of the...
A black wig on a white mannequin head. It is cut flat across the top, and curved on the sides.
April 29, 2018, marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Broadway opening of the rock musical Hair. Hair grew out of the counterculture...
Oscar Peterson and Norman Granz seated together
During this year’s Jazz Appreciation Month, we are exploring the relationship between jazz and justice by looking at the dynamic ways jazz...
Norman Granz and Ella Fitzgerald stand side-by-side in front of a microphone
A civil rights protest often invokes the vivid images of sit-ins, boycotts, and marches, but the fight for racial equality took many...

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