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Elroy and Sophia Williams stand inside the Hopewell School, a site on the National Register of Historic Places. Once freed from slavery, Sophia’s grandparents, depicted in the artwork she holds, acquired and then donated land for the school, one of nearly 5,000 built for African American children across from 1912 to 1937.

These 15 Moving Photos Celebrate Black History Month

To mark the February heritage month, these images from the Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest offer proof that African American history is timeless

Members of the National Negro Opera Company pose backstage during a 1941 performance of Aida.

The Founder of This Trailblazing Opera Company Put Black Singers at Center Stage

Mary Cardwell Dawson created unprecedented opportunities for aspiring Black musicians

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How to Separate Fact From Myth in the Extraordinary Story of Sojourner Truth

Two historians tell us why the pioneering 19th-century feminist, suffragist and abolitionist’s legacy has so frequently been misrepresented

Lincoln Cemetery was established in 1867, two years after the Civil War ended.

Near the Site of the Gettysburg Address, These Black Civil War Veterans Remain Segregated, Even in Death

Denied burial alongside Union soldiers killed during the Battle of Gettysburg, the 30 or so men were instead buried in the all-Black Lincoln Cemetery

John Smith claimed Pocahontas saved him from execution when she was just 11 or 12 years old. Whether the story happened the way Smith tells it—or even at all—is up for debate, a 2017 Smithsonian Channel documentary explains.

The True Story of Pocahontas Is More Complicated Than You Might Think

Historian Camilla Townsend separates fact from fiction in the life of the Powhatan "princess"

A 1942 Memorial Day service at Manzanar, a Japanese American incarceration camp in California

How a 1924 Immigration Act Laid the Groundwork for Japanese American Incarceration

A Smithsonian curator and a historian discuss the links between the Johnson-Reed Act and Executive Order 9066, which rounded up 120,000 Japanese Americans in camps across the Western U.S.

Could we use volcanic energy as a power source?

Could Volcanoes Power Our Planet? And More Questions From Our Readers

You’ve got questions. We’ve got experts

While most of the fripperies at Tiffany & Co. were out of reach for average New Yorkers, Charles Lewis Tiffany priced his telegraph cable souvenirs at just 50 cents each—about $19 today.

To Make Tiffany & Co. a Household Name, the Luxury Brand's Founder Cashed in on the Trans-Atlantic Telegraph Craze

Charles Lewis Tiffany purchased the surplus cable from the 1858 venture, turning it into souvenirs that forever linked his name to the short-lived telecommunications milestone

The city’s classic sign, 25 feet tall, was designed by commercial artist Betty Willis in 1959.

How the Dazzling Las Vegas Strip Rose Up From the Desert

The story behind the glitzy stretch of highway that became the destination for America’s most sublime—and most sordid—aspirations

Pioneering designer Clara Driscoll conceived this indelible lamp around the turn of the 20th century—with help from her fellow "Tiffany girls."

These Women Were the Real Geniuses Behind the Iconic Tiffany Lamps

A chic light fixture reveals how female designers remade the Tiffany brand—and went largely uncredited for nearly a century

A diver prepares to enter the water of Malakal Harbor in Palau, where the plane flown by U.S. Navy pilot Jay Ross Manown Jr. was shot down in September 1944.

Recovering the Lost Aviators of World War II

Inside the search for a plane shot down over the Pacific—and the new effort to bring its fallen heroes home

A white Baptist woman named Harriet M. Buss taught Civil War hero Robert Smalls (pictured) how to read and write.

What a Teacher's Letters Reveal About Robert Smalls, Who Stole a Confederate Ship to Secure His Freedom From Slavery

Harriet M. Buss' missives home detail the future congressman's candid views on race and the complicity of Confederate women

A close-up of Sojourner Truth’s face in statue created by Woodrow Nash. An 1883 New York Times obituary described Truth’s “tall, masculine-looking figure” and “deep, guttural, powerful voice.”

The Remarkable Untold Story of Sojourner Truth

Feminist. Preacher. Abolitionist. Civil rights pioneer. Now the full story of the American icon's life and faith is finally coming to light

In 18th-century Venice, Carnival masks created a temporary feeling of equality between the ruling class and the lower classes.

A Brief History of How Carnival Is Celebrated Around the World

Here’s how Venice, Rio de Janeiro, Trinidad and Tobago, New Orleans, and Quebec City mark the pre-Lenten season

Long before it was imbued with symbolic meaning in the zodiac and beyond, the dragon was an ambiguous silhouette adorning art forms.

Why Is the Year of the Dragon Considered So Lucky?

The only mythical creature in the Chinese zodiac, the dragon has long been associated with prosperity and imperial power

Abraham Lincoln’s third annual message to Congress spurred prompt and consequential action on what became the first piece of proactive federal legislation to encourage, rather than discourage, immigration to the U.S.

Abraham Lincoln's Oft-Overlooked Campaign to Promote Immigration to the U.S.

A few weeks after the president delivered the Gettysburg Address, he called on Congress to welcome immigrants as a "source of national wealth and strength"

A late-19th-century photograph of John Mason's mansion on Analostan Island, now called Theodore Roosevelt Island

This Peaceful Nature Sanctuary in Washington, D.C. Sits on the Ruins of a Plantation

Before Theodore Roosevelt Island was transformed into a tribute to the nation's "conservation president," a prominent Virginia family relied on enslaved laborers to build and tend to its summer home there

Genealogy researchers use military records, birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, wills, legal and court documents, and census records to help piece together the past.

How the Smithsonian Is Helping Black Americans Trace Their Roots

Free sessions hosted by the National Museum of African American History and Culture offer visitors advice on researching their genealogy

The story of the successful mission, code-named Operation Washing, offers a masterclass in determination and daring worthy of Leonidas.

Millennia After Leonidas Made His Last Stand at Thermopylae, a Ragtag Band of Saboteurs Thwarted the Axis Powers in the Same Narrow Pass

A new book chronicles the 16-plus battles that took place in the Greek pass between the ancient era and World War II

Clockwise from top left: Molly Ringwald as Joanne Carson, Demi Moore as Ann Woodward, Naomi Watts as Babe Paley, Tom Hollander as Truman Capote and Diane Lane as Slim Keith in "Feud: Capote vs. the Swans"

The Real History Behind 'Feud: Capote vs. the Swans'

Ryan Murphy's new mini-series dramatizes the "In Cold Blood" author's betrayal of an insular group of Manhattan socialites