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Visitors to the Library of Congress participate in "Crafting for the Holidays" in the Jefferson Building's Great Hall, November 24, 2023. Photo by Angela Napili/Library of Congress. Note: Privacy and publicity rights for individuals depicted may apply.

Join Us for Family Days at the Library! First Up: Make a Zine on February 10.

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On Saturday, February 10th, the Informal Learning Office kicks off a series of monthly, in-person family activity programs. We look forward to welcoming you to sessions full of creative activities, and opportunities to explore Library collections in the beautiful surroundings of the mezzanine level of the Thomas Jefferson Building.

February’s program is a “zine,” or mini magazine, making session. In honor of Black History Month, we’ll be taking inspiration from The Brownies’ Book, the first magazine for African American children. You can read more here about this ground-breaking monthly, published by activist and scholar W.E.B. Dubois in the early 1920s.

The free, drop-in program runs from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. We welcome participants of all ages, especially families. All materials are provided. Visitors will be able to explore The Brownies’ Book content in facsimile, discuss the magazine with Library staff, and to hear special guest Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden speak at 1 p.m. There is no charge for the session, but you’ll need free passes for building entry. A limited number of walkup tickets are available at 9 a.m. daily, but it’s a good idea to reserve passes early, if possible. ADA accommodations can be requested five business days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or [email protected].

COver illustration of the first Brownies' Book magazine, January 1920.
The cover illustration of the first issue of The Brownies Book, published January 1920.
Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

Join In from Home:

If you can’t attend the February 10th program in person, you can still participate! This Library guide defines a zine and provides directions and ideas for making your own.  Read on for more ideas and resources to help you get a zine project started.

To begin to grasp the impact of The Brownies’ Book, it’s crucial to know that in the 1920s, seeing themselves and their interests publicly and so positively portrayed in print was a new – and rare — experience for Black children and teens. Each issue of the magazine included pieces about young African Americans, such as these pictures and this profile. Most installments also contained a “True Story” about trailblazing African American historical figures. Some were household names; others were not but had equally inspiring stories. Below are some of the famous Black individuals featured, with additional Library resources in case you’d like to learn more. As you plan your own content, consider also writing about those you admire, either people from history or ones that you know.

Picture of a mural featuring Benjamin Banneker.
Highsmith, Carol M, photographer. “Benjamin Banneker-Inventor-Astronomer,” mural by Maxime Seelbinder,
at the Records of Deeds building, Washington, D.C. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

These profiles in The Brownies’ Book introduce some less well-known historical figures and their remarkable achievements:

A print of three African American important historical men, with smaller illustration surrounding them.
This 1881 print celebrates African American heroes. The three central figures are Senator Blanche Kelso Bruce of Mississippi; abolitionist Frederick Douglass; and Hiram Rhoades Revels, who had also served as a Senator from Mississippi. The accompanying description provides information about the other illustrations on the print.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

These are just a few of the extensive Library collections that focus on Black history and changemakers. You’ll find many more at https://loc.gov; try searching for a specific name or start by consulting this Resource Guide to online materials relating to African American history. We hope you enjoy your zine-making project, and that the collections listed above inspire some exciting content.  If you can join us onsite on February 10th, we very much look forward to seeing you in person. And watch this space for updates and information about upcoming family activity Saturdays on March 9th, April 13th and beyond!

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