African American History

The Cecil Williams South Carolina Civil Rights Museum preserves photographs and artifacts from the civil rights movement.

New Funding Will Help Highlight Five Black History Sites in the American South

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s $50,000 grants will support civil rights museums, a monument to victims of an industrial disaster and other organizations

Maya Angelou, pictured here in 2008, became the first Black woman to feature on a U.S. quarter this week. The celebrated poet and author died in 2014. 

Women Who Shaped History

Newly Minted Maya Angelou Quarters Enter Circulation and Make History

Here’s how to find one of the new U.S. quarters—the first to feature a Black woman

Sidney Poitier, pictured here in 2006 at the Cannes Film Festival, died Friday, January 7. He was 94. 

How Sidney Poitier Rewrote the Script for Black Actors in Hollywood

Smithsonian curators reflect on the legacy of the late Poitier, who starred in 'In the Heat of the Night' and 'Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner'

Lawrence Brooks, 110, pictured at a previous birthday celebration at the National World War II Museum

Lawrence Brooks, the United States' Oldest Living WWII Veteran, Dies at 112

Brooks was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1940, when he was in his early 30s

Lieutenant Colonel Almon F. Rockwell (center) was a longtime friend of President James A. Garfield (right). He was also one of roughly 25 people present at Abraham Lincoln's (left) deathbed.

This Man Was the Only Eyewitness to the Deaths of Both Lincoln and Garfield

Almon F. Rockwell's newly resurfaced journals, excerpted exclusively here, offer an incisive account of the assassinated presidents' final moments

This commemorative Edmonia Lewis "forever" stamp will go on sale January 26, as the 45th installment of the USPS's Black Heritage series. 

U.S. Postage Stamp Will Honor Edmonia Lewis, a Sculptor Who Broke the Mold

As a Native American, Black and Roman Catholic woman, Lewis overcame prejudice to become a sought-after sculptor in late 19th-century Europe

Blue Madonna, oil on canvas, 1961. Many of the artist’s works feature religious themes and are painted in the bold colors of the Fauvists and German Expressionists.

American Artist Bob Thompson Riffed on the Old Masters of Europe

A new view of an original genius who died before he could realize his full potential

The origins of the crunchy snack date back to at least the 1800s.

How the Potato Chip Took Over America

A fussy magnate, a miffed chef and the curious roots of the comfort food we hate to love

Richmond took down its statue of Robert E. Lee in September 2021.

Richmond's Robert E. Lee Statue Is Headed to a Black History Museum

Officials have tentatively agreed to transfer ownership of removed Confederate monuments to a pair of museums in the Virginia city

A first edition of Phillis Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773), written while the poet was enslaved to John Wheatley of Boston. The book has a brown leather cover, the original Morocco spine label and a frontispiece featuring a portrait of Phillis by Scipio Morehead.


 

Women Who Shaped History

How Phillis Wheatley Beat All Expectations

The Revolution-era Boston establishment couldn't believe that the young African American woman wrote the exquisite book of poetry

Arnold Bertonneau of New Orleans, Robert Smalls of South Carolina and Anderson Ruffin Abbott of Toronto.

Meet the Black Men Who Changed Lincoln's Mind About Equal Rights

During the Civil War, these individuals convinced the president, altering the course of U.S. history

Finds unveiled in 2021 included a wooden falcon that originally belonged to doomed queen Anne Boleyn, an intact ancient chicken egg and a dress worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz.

Cool Finds

Ninety-Nine Fascinating Finds Revealed in 2021

The year's most exciting discoveries include a Viking "piggy bank," a lost Native American settlement and a secret passageway hidden behind a bookshelf

The Moores' younger daughter, Evangeline, donated this locket and other personal artifacts to the Smithsonian in 2013.

This Locket Memorializes a Black Activist Couple Murdered in a Christmas 1951 Bombing

Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore attracted the KKK's ire for their tireless promotion of civil rights in the Jim Crow South

Brown was known as the Godfather of Soul and the Hardest Working Man in Show Business.

James Brown's Estate Has Sold After 15-Year Dispute

The estimated $90 million deal will go mostly toward a scholarship fund for children from South Carolina and Georgia

bell hooks, pictured in 1999

Women Who Shaped History

Groundbreaking Feminist Scholar bell hooks Dies at 69

The prolific American writer shaped a generation of discourse around Black feminism and intersectionality

The 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life stars James Stewart as down-on-his-luck George Bailey and Donna Reed as his wife, Mary.

What 'It's a Wonderful Life' Teaches Us About American History

The Christmas classic, released 75 years ago, conveys many messages beyond having faith in one another

Emmett Till and his mother Mamie Till-Mobley, ca. 1953-1955

Race in America

Justice Department Officially Closes Emmett Till Investigation Without Bringing Justice

Authorities will not press charges after reviewing a second piece of key testimony from the 1955 murder

Aside from photography, James Van Der Zee was also a gifted musician who played both the piano and violin.

The Met Acquires Archive of Work by Harlem Renaissance Photographer James Van Der Zee

Working with the Studio Museum of Harlem, the museum is preserving the photographer’s images of 20th-century Black life

Crews removed the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from its perch in Charlottesville, Virginia, in July 2021. Controversy over the statue's fate sparked the violent "Unite the Right" rally in 2017.

History of Now

Charlottesville's Robert E. Lee Statue Will Be Melted Down, Transformed Into New Art

Officials in the Virginia city approved a bold plan for the future of the Confederate monument

"There isn't a Christmas that goes by that I don't sing 'Oh Holy Night,'" says Irma Thomas (above: in 2019 at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival) "If you listen to all the verses, it tells a beautiful story."

Irma Thomas' Rendition of 'O Holy Night' Is a Marvel From Beginning to End

Soulful Christmas music is an obsession for Bill Adler, so he interviewed the singer of one of his favorite songs

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