Exploring African American History Month – the government docs approach


Maya Angelou tells us that “history, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” And so, whether or not we slow down to think, we as a people set aside occasions – a day, a week, a month – to commemorate a the stories of the people, events, eras or movements that shape our nation’s history.

As we pass the halfway mark of African American History Month I have finally stopped to think. Because at this juncture I cannot free my thinking from the confines of information by and about the federal government this post explores those singular and massive resources. With a nod to February, these national treasures are accessible to the snowbound learner with time to ponder the wonders of the African American story.

Sound stuffy? Try tweeting Beglan O’Brien, fictional Civil War reporter – he’ll fill you in on what’s happening on the battlefront and direct you to amazing backup resources you can explore from the comfort of your home or cubicle. (https://twitter.com/CivilWarReportr)

Feel like viewing a documentary film? They’re online, too. There are several films covering a range of topics including The Loving Story relates the troubled tale of a mixed race marriage in 1958; Freedom Riders documents the story of the diverse and determined riders, black and white, many of whom traveled great distances, to join the struggle for civil rights; The Abolitionists brings to life the men and women — Frederick Douglass, John Brown, Harriet Beecher Stowe and their contemporaries — who led the battle to end slavery; and Slavery by Another Name, the unacknowledged story of African American men charged with petty crimes, treated as indentured slaves. (http://createdequal.neh.gov)

Want to get into the creative mind of Zora Neale Hurston? Feel free to explore the digitized manuscripts of many of her plays now readily accessible online from the Library of Congress. (http://www.loc.gov/collection/zora-neale-hurston-plays/about-the-collection)

Also at the Library of Congress find Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project from the Library of Congress. (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml/)

At the Smithsonian join a Heritage Tour (http://heritagetours.si.edu/bhm.html) It starts slow but keep on trekking. You’ll find photos and the story of Muhammed Ali’s robe and boxing gloves or the Woolworth’s lunch counter.

The National Archives offers learners a free eBook, The Meaning and Making of Emancipation, that illustrates the conception and significance of the Emancipation Proclamation through documents in the holdings of the National Archives, available for iPad, iPhone, Android, eReaders, and online

Also at the Archives explore the photographic map-based tour of The March on Washington on Historypin. (http://www.historypin.com/attach/uid23019/tours/view/540/title/The%20March%20on%20Washington/)

Though the possibilities never end African American History Month will do so soon – and thus the list of thought-provoking resources stops here. Wherever you start, you’ll soon find yourself enmeshed and amazed at the digital treasures to probe and ponder.

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.