February is Black History Month! Visit our history month page to learn about our special activities.
Explore the digital resources on this page to learn more about African American history at the National Museum of American History.
Photo above: Marian Anderson performing at the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939. Scurlock Studio Records, Series 4: Black and White Negatives Box 618.04.86, Archives Center (AC0618ns0227136-01jp)
Looking Inside a Legendary Blues Archive
A Great Leap of Faith
- Education | Becoming US: Teacher resources for a more accurate and inclusive migration and immigration narrative
- Social Studies Online: Black History Month | Learning Lab
- Resources on Martin Luther King Jr. | Learning Lab
- Abolition | National Youth Summit
- Freedom Rides | National Youth Summit
- Freedom Summer | National Youth Summit
- Teen Resistance to Systemic Racism | National Youth
- Inspiring STEM Pathways: Contemporary Inventors as Role Models for the Next Generation | Lemelson Center
The museum's newest podcast series, Collected, is a project of the African American History Curatorial Collective. Centering stories curated by the Collective’s members, this podcast offers compelling and accessible journeys through topics in African American history that are particularly relevant today. The topic for the first season of Collected is Black Feminism.
Other Smithsonian-related podcast episodes featuring African American history include:
In addition to the recent highlights below, the museum's YouTube channel has many more videos that explore African American history, including entries in the Program in African American History and Culture and Reckoning with Remembrance: History, Injustice, and the Murder of Emmett Till playlists.
- Reflections on the Greensboro Lunch Counter
- Recovering Food Histories with Toni Tipton-Martin and Friends
- Stories of Black Philanthropy: Treasures from the National Museum of American History
- What did Tulsa’s Greenwood District look like in the mid-1900s? | Harold M. Anderson Black Wall Street Film Collection
- How are museums collecting around COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter? | Pandemic Perspectives
- Race and Place: Yellow Fever and the Free African Society in Philadelphia | Pandemic Perspectives
- Duke Ellington’s “Cotton Tail”| Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Quintet
- Melba Liston's “Now, Ain't It” | Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Sextet
- Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia” | Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Octet
- Jamming with James: Vocalese in Jazz | Smithsonian Cares
- What's in an Identity? Denea Joseph on the Practice of Intersectional Organizing | Tell Me What Democracy Looks Like
- Civic Action | Young People Shake Up Elections (History Proves It)
The National Museum of American History’s Archives Center collects, preserves, and provides access to numerous archival collections related to African American history.
Some highlights include:
- Bernice Johnson Reagon Collection of African American Sacred Music
- Duke Ellington Collection
- Moses Moon Civil Rights Movement Audio Collection
- Program in African American Culture Collection
- Scurlock Studio Records
- Susie Paige Afro-American Greeting Card Collection
The Archives Center recently completed work as part of a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources to establish the D.C. Africana Archives Project. The grant aimed to document African American and African culture, history, and politics in Washington, D.C., through photographs and documents held by people and organizations throughout the city.
Duke Ellington's rosary
This rosary once belonged to Duke Ellington, famed musician and composer, serving as one tangible piece of Ellington’s complex religious identity and expression.
Firefighter's Badge for Niagara Fire Company No. 8
William P. Perry, a bricklayer in Charleston, South Carolina, was just 17 years old when he joined the Niagara Fire Company No. 8, an independent African American volunteer fire company in 1861.
Organ shoes, worn by Althea Thomas
Althea Thomas served as organist for Martin Luther King Jr.’s congregation at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama from 1955 unti King announcing his departure for Atlanta in December, 1959. Her performances while wearing these shoes of gospel anthems such as “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” inspired King and his congregation every Sunday during the landmark Montgomery bus boycott.
Defaced Emmett Till Historic Marker
This historical marker erected by the Emmett Till Memorial Commission is pierced by 317 bullet holes; it is only one of many defaced historical markers memorializing sites of Emmett Till's lynching in the Mississippi Delta.
Other Smithsonian Resources
- African American History Curatorial Collective | National Museum of American History
- African American History Program | National Museum of American History
- Searchable Museum | National Museum of African American History and Culture
- Anacostia Community Museum
- National Museum of African American History and Culture
- Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past