Black History Month

Shirley Woodson, Take it To The Limit, 2013, acrylic on canvas

At 85 Years Old, Longtime Detroit Artist Gets a Show of Her Own

A new exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts spotlights Shirley Woodson, an arts educator and longtime fixture of the city's vibrant Black arts scene

President Biden announced his pick to fill the US Supreme Court vacancy on Friday: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Women Who Shaped History

What to Know About Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's Historic Nomination to the Supreme Court

Jackson, a 51-year-old Harvard graduate and former public defender, would be the first Black woman on the Court

Scholars say that Afrocentric notions of invention have often emphasized serving the needs of the community, social justice and artistic self-expression, such as the unpatented innovations of DJ Grandmaster Flash, who reimagined turntables and mixers as musical instruments and developed techniques like “scratching” that defined rap and hip- hop music.
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Tearing Down the Barriers for Black Inventors Begins With Honoring Their Historic Breakthroughs

Smithsonian’s Eric S. Hintz, a historian of invention, details how scholars are envisioning a more inclusive ecosystem for the innovators of tomorrow

Pruitt took roughly 88,000 photographs of life in and around Columbus, Mississippi, between 1916 and 1960. Pictured: a Black baptismal group on the bank of the Tombigbee River, circa 1930s

Chronicling the Triumphs—and Tragedies—of Life in the Deep South

A new book and traveling exhibition highlight the work of Mississippi photographer O.N. Pruitt

Edmonia Lewis' Death of Cleopatra was a sensation at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, among both admirers and those who found Lewis' depiction of the queen's suicide too macabre.

Women Who Shaped History

When Cleopatra Died Again

The artwork by Edmonia Lewis, the first African American sculptor in the classical mode, epitomizes her immense talent

Vivian Carter (center) and her husband, Jimmy Bracken (far right), launched Vee Jay Records in 1953.

The Black Record Label That Introduced the Beatles to America

Over its 13-year run, Vee Jay built a roster that left a lasting impact on every genre of music

An aerial view looking southwest from Charleston, with the Stono River wending through the landscape.

Race in America

What the Haunting 'Inner Passage' Represented to the Enslaved

These photographs explore the waterways of the South that brought suffering to so many and also provided some a way out of bondage

Every wall, table and shelf in Elizabeth Meaders' three-story Staten Island home is crammed with pictures, posters, signs, statues, medals, sports memorabilia and military gear.

Women Who Shaped History

Why a Schoolteacher Spent 70 Years Collecting Thousands of Black History Artifacts

Elizabeth Meaders' acquisitions include sports memorabilia, civil rights posters, military paraphernalia and art

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Women Who Shaped History

Constance Baker Motley Taught the Nation How to Win Justice

The pathbreaking lawyer and “Civil Rights Queen” was the first Black woman to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court

On July 21, 1963, Gloria Richardson was walking from a meeting when her would-be attacker ran at her with his brandished weapon leveled at her neck. She flat-palmed the blade of the bayonet, shoving it away from her body. 

Women Who Shaped History

How Gloria Richardson's Look of Righteous Indignation Became a Symbol of No Retreat

In 1963, the civil rights leader shoved aside a guardsman’s bayonet with disgust and defiance; photography preserved the charged moment

Established in 1949, the Freedom House in Boston once served as a meeting place for civil rights activists. Today, the nonprofit center continues its work to improve the lives of Black Americans and other marginalized groups.

Freedom House, an Iconic Civil Rights Hub in Boston, Is Set for Demolition

Nicknamed the "Black Pentagon," the building served as a meeting place for local racial justice activists

“Bessie Coleman (above: with her Curtiss JN-4 "Jennie" in her custom designed flying suit, ca. 1924) was a real gutsy woman for the era,” says Dorothy Cochrane, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. "Anyone else might have quit at any time.”

For Pilot Bessie Coleman, Every 'No' Got Her Closer to 'Yes'

Despite fierce obstacles in her path, the Black female aviator became a hero that would pave the way for generations to come

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

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

Prior to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, the thriving neighborhood of Greenwood, Oklahoma (seen here in 1920), was nicknamed "Black Wall Street."

Remembering Tulsa

How the Public Helped Historians Better Understand What Happened at Tulsa

A century after the massacre of a prosperous Black community, Smithsonian volunteers transcribed nearly 500 pages of vital records in less than 24 hours

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Remembering Tulsa

The Unrealized Promise of Oklahoma

How the push for statehood led a beacon of racial progress to oppression and violence

Studio family portrait, 1960–1970s, by Rev. Henry Clay Anderson

How the Smithsonian Can Help African American Families Research Their Ancestors

The National Museum of African American History and Culture offers service and tips for genealogy efforts

Smith, the first black American to earn a medical degree, was also a leading abolitionist and prolific writer. His alma maters included the African Free School #2 (bottom right) and the University of Glasgow (top right).

Race in America

America's First Black Physician Sought to Heal a Nation's Persistent Illness

An activist, writer, doctor and intellectual, James McCune Smith, born enslaved, directed his talents to the eradication of slavery

Left, a portion of the patent plan designed by Marie Van Brittan Brown and her husband Albert, right.

Women Who Shaped History

A Brief History of the Invention of the Home Security Alarm

A hardworking nurse envisioned a new way to know who was at the door

Many contemporaries argued that Black men had more than earned the right to vote through their military service in the Civil War.

Smithsonian Voices

How the Unresolved Debate Over Black Male Suffrage Shaped the Presidential Election of 1868

At the height of the Reconstruction, the pressing issue was Black male suffrage

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