The Fisk Jubilee Singers: Preserving African American Spirituals

In honor of Black History Month, we present a small but important part of African-American history and culture: the Fisk Jubilee Singers. This a cappella group of nine students from Fisk University was organized in 1871 to raise money ($20,000, to be exact) for their financially troubled institution. They succeeded magnificently. In the process, they were instrumental in preserving traditional African American spirituals and bringing them to a vastly wider audience, both more »

“An American Slave:” The Narrative of Frederick Douglass on the 200th Anniversary of his Birth

February 14th, 2018 marks the 200th birthday (observed) of Frederick Douglass. Interested in contributing to his legacy? Join the Transcribe-a-thon organized by Colored Conventions and the Smithsonian Transcription Center. Autobiographies of antebellum slaves, fugitive or former, are an extensive and influential tradition in American culture and a distinctive contribution to world literature. They speak to the country’s founding identity, giving voice to those in bondage and their search for freedom. They provide more »

Paul Laurence Dunbar: from “elevator boy” to accomplished poet

This post was written by Brittney Falter, a graduate student at George Mason University and social media intern at the Smithsonian Libraries. Paul Laurence Dunbar was born in Dayton, Ohio on June 27, 1872 to two former slaves. His father was enslaved in Kentucky but escaped and served in the Massachusetts 55th Regiment during the Civil War. Dunbar attended public school and was taught to read by his mother. He was the more »

America’s First Known African American Scientist and Mathematician

At the beginning of February, Black History Month, the former slave Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was much in the news. The most prominent African American of the 19th century, he first moved to Washington, D.C. in the early 1870s after his home in Rochester, New York burned down. Here he published his newspaper, The New National Era. From 1877 until his death in 1895, Douglass lived and worked in a stately Victorian house, more »

Spiral: Discussing the Role of African American Artists in the Civil Rights Movement

  We are always finding great materials in our Art and Artists Files at the American Art and Portrait Gallery Library and we’re excited it to share it with the public. In our mission to provide greater access to our ephemera files, we are working on adding our corporate files to the Art and Artist Files database. The corporate files contain ephemera (catalogues, pamphlets, exhibition invitations. etc.) produced for group exhibitions by galleries, museums, and other institutions. more »

African American Artists and the Hudson River School

Recently, you may have heard  about the ways art from the Hudson River School has been a source of inspiration for new artistic works. Well, the luminous landscape paintings have inspired us, too. In honor of Black History Month, we’d like to highlight a couple of African American artists with ties the school. These artists have paintings in the Smithsonian American Art Museum collection as well as an Art and Artist Files more »

A Dream Realized: The National Museum of African American History & Culture Library

Shauna Collier, Librarian for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, contributed this post. Late last year my dream of becoming the librarian for the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC) came true, and a month ago I returned to the Smithsonian Libraries (I worked here years ago as the Anacostia Librarian).  After receiving the warmest welcome from my library and museum colleagues, I started receiving the more »

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