For Adults

Celebrate Black History at IndyPL

01/29/2020 | Black History

“Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” – President Gerald R. Ford, 1976

February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of the achievements of African Americans. It is a great time to 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.

Carter G. Woodson

There was a time in our nation’s history when 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.

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.

The Library has books, music, movies, and digital collections related to African American history as well as the African American Experience database. If you are in need of suggestions for what to check out next, this page is a great place to start!


What To Read

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

To learn even more about fascinating and inspiring black history makers, visit the Center for Black Literature & Culture at Central Library. The Center is dedicated to celebrating the vibrant and resilient heritage and triumphs of those born of African roots.

Center for Black Literature & Culture Central Library

Download and Stream with your IndyPL Library Card:

  • The Center for Black Literature & Culture Overdrive Collection of e-books and e-audiobooks
  • You can stream films, documentaries, and television shows free with your IndyPL library card. One of our streaming services, called Hoopla, has an online collection called African American Voices. If you have never used your library card before to stream movies, music or TV shows, learn more about borrowing from Hoopla.

Booklists and Suggested Titles:

Don't miss the opportunity to view the works of prominent local African American artists during one of Indianapolis' premier cultural events, Meet the Artists XXXII. The Meet the Artists exhibit and related events are for individuals and families of all ages! Learn More

2020 Meet the Artists XXXII

Digital Indy: Image & Artifact Collection of Local Black History:

  • Crispus Attucks High School Year Books - In 1927, Crispus Attucks High School opened its doors as Indianapolis’ first and only all-Black high school.
  • Indianapolis Firefighters Museum - African American Firefighters
  • Black History, Indianapolis History - Black history has a long presence in Indianapolis, six years after the founding of Indianapolis, out of the 1,066 total residents 55 were African American (source). There is no history of Indianapolis without Indianapolis’ vibrant and diverse Black population.
  • Indy Jazz Fest - The Indy Jazz Fest collection comes from a series of music and cultural events organized by the not-for-profit Indianapolis Jazz Foundation, committed to keeping the legacy and future of jazz in Indianapolis at the forefront.
  • Indianapolis Public Library African American History Committee - The objective of the Indianapolis Public Library African American History Committee is to present the diverse accomplishments and heritage of African Americans to the general public.

National Digital Collections:

  • Digital Schomberg - Provides access to information and scholarship on the global black experience. Users worldwide can find, in this virtual Schomburg Center, exhibitions, books, articles, photographs, prints, audio and video streams, and selected external links for research in the history and cultures of the peoples of Africa and the African Diaspora.
  • National Museum of African American History & Culture Online Collection - Resources that support scholarship in African American history, culture, and the African Diaspora