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There was a time in our nation’s history when learning about the achievements and good deeds of Americans included pertinent facts about almost every group of people living in the United States – with the notable exception of people of color, and more specifically, African Americans.

Present-day, during the month of February, we celebrate African American accomplishments and contributions to the United States, our teachers, historians, lawyers, doctors, political activists, writers, engineers, dancers, athletes, musicians, artists, and so much more.

Portrait Carter G. Woodson

Did you know that observance of Black History Month began in 1976 back when President Gerald Ford was at the helm? Prior to this, African American history was actually observed during the second week in February as “Negro History Week,” which began in 1926. Negro History Week was the brainchild of Carter G. Woodson-PhD and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), founded in 1915 as the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Woodson reportedly settled on the second week in February because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln (U.S. National Archives: Emancipation Proclamation) and Frederick Douglass (African American Civil Rights Activist). Learn more about Carter G. Woodson here as well as the ASALH here. Several books on Woodson's life and legacy for adults and kids can be found in IndyPL's catalog here.

IndyPL_MontoyaB

It’s about the lived, shared experience of all African Americans, high and low, famous and obscure, and how those experiences have shaped and challenged and ultimately strengthened America. It’s about taking an unvarnished look at the past so we can create a better future. It’s a reminder of where we as a country have been so that we know where we need to go.


President Barack Obama, 2016

The Library has books, music, movies, and digital collections that provide a variety of ways to learn about Black history. If you are in need of suggestions for what to check out next, here are some ways to get started - re-read a classic or favorite, find out about an author you have never read, reflect on what you remember, or discover a piece of history you didn't know!

Explore the history.

Our knowledgeable staff and the resources available to you at The Library and online can help you get started from primary sources and portals to biographies, artifacts, photographs, and more. See our collection of resources to explore the African Diaspora.

Share Black history with kids.

If you are looking for Black history resources for kids, read through history by browsing our Racial Justice Timeline, 1954-1968. Listed here are important events of the Civil Rights Movement and the fight for racial justice. For each event a few books are listed, both fiction and non-fiction, that bring the events and people to life.

Books written for children are also great introductions to history for adults. These selections designed for kids often include excerpts of primary sources, charts, graphs, and high quality photographs from digital archives. These selections make thoughtful reads for adults as well.

Check out and watch a Black Biopic.

Black Biopics
Biopics are films about historical figures and events. While directors and producers often take dramatic license in these films, at their core these films help audiences learn, become inspired, and share in the emotional journey of the characters. Below are biopics depicting Black stories and people. There are films about advocates and civil rights pioneers, singers, sportspeople, educators, mathematicians, and historical events that celebrate Black history.

Read Black authors.

Here are six tips to help you find books written by Black authors, including a convenient clickable list of authors linked directly to our catalog for placing requests or checking out e-books or audiobooks. Find compelling history and historical fiction, biographies, and memoirs by both contemporary and classic authors. You can also browse reading recommendations from our staff.

Join The 1619 Project Read Along: a classroom without walls.


For those interested in learning about early Black history in American, join The 1619 Project Read Along: A Classroom Without Walls, an online discussion designed to "remove barriers and invite all curious minds to discover and discuss this vital history." The Read Along is hosted by the publisher, One World, a Random House imprint. One World is giving away six chapters from the book free of charge, and invites readers to join discussions based on the selections.


You can check out a copy of The 1619 Project or, you can download the free chapters being made available over the next several weeks. There are online discussions and weekly discussion guides. If you have missed some of the chapter discussions, you can catch up or join in at any time.

  • “Democracy” by Nikole Hannah-Jones
    If you missed our first chapter discussion for "Democracy" with Nikole Hannah-Jones, check it out here.
  • “Capitalism” by Matthew Desmond
    Watch a video of Matthew Desmond answering questions from readers about his chapter, "Capitalism," here.

Upcoming chapters through February include:

  • “Fear” by Michelle Alexander and Leslie Alexander
  • “Race” by Dorothy Roberts
  • “Justice” by Nikole Hannah-Jones
  • “Music” by Wesley Morris

Note: a six-part Hulu original docu-series The 1619 Project premieres January 26, 2023.