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African American History and Culture in Headlines and Heroes

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In honor of Juneteenth, we are highlighting our Headlines and Heroes blogs focusing on African American history and culture. These range from a look at fugitive slave ads to a piece featuring the Library’s acquisition of the rare comic book series, Negro Romance, to several profiles of notable black Americans. We hope you’ll take this opportunity to read through them all and then choose at least one as a lead-in to further research.

Champion Cyclist “Major” Taylor
Cyclist Marshall W. “Major” Taylor was described as the fastest man on earth. He won thousands of dollars as a bicycle racer and became one of the most famous African Americans in the United States. Taylor faced the fastest cyclists in America, Canada, Europe, and Australia, winning most of the races he entered.

“Important Proclamation by the President. The Slaves of Rebels Proclaimed Free,” The Alleghanian (Ebensburg, PA), September 25, 1862, p. 2.

Celebrating Black History Month in Chronicling America Newspapers
Thirteen Chronicling America* topics pages are described and linked, including one on Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation was published in newspapers as a preliminary document in late September 1862 and was issued on January 1, 1863.

Frederick Douglass Newspapers, 1847-1874: Now Online and Update: Frederick Douglass Newspapers: More Issues Online
These two posts focus on our new online collection of hundreds of issues of the three weekly newspapers edited by the eminent African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass: The North Star, Frederick Douglass’ Paper, and the New National Era.

North Star (Rochester, N.Y.), March 8, 1850, p. 1.

Harlem Hell Fighters: African-American Troops in World War I
“Hell Fighters” was the nickname the German enemy gave the African American 369th Infantry Regiment, and the name stuck for good reason. They were among the first American troops to see action, fighting under French command, and two of the regiment’s soldiers were the first Americans awarded Croix de Guerre by the French government.

Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad
Abolitionist Harriet Tubman escaped slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 1849. She then returned there multiple times over the next decade, risking her life to bring others to freedom as a renowned conductor of the Underground Railroad.

Hiram Revels: First African American Senator
Two days after Mississippi was readmitted to the Union on February 23, 1870, Hiram Revels, a schoolmaster and preacher, became the first African American to serve in the U.S. Senate. When Revels took the Senate oath of office, he filled the seat of the last man to serve as a senator from Mississippi—Jefferson Davis.

“Mrs. Ida B. Wells-Barnett.” The Broad Ax (Salt Lake City, UT), July 14, 1917, p. 4.

Ida B. Wells and the Activism of Investigative Journalism
In a time of extreme racism and yellow journalism, documenting and speaking the truth about lynchings in the South was a rare and dangerous act. When one of journalist Ida B. Wells’ friends was lynched in Memphis in 1892, she decided she could not let the defamation and murder of African American men stand any longer.

Madam C.J. Walker
Madame Walker was one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire. Though she had no formal education, she gained a wide reputation as an African American entrepreneur in the cosmetics industry and as a manufacturer of a popular hair remedy.

Rosa Parks: In Newspapers and Comic Books
Events in Rosa Parks’ life are chronicled in newspapers and comic books and reinforce her well-justified iconic status. At times, though, their simplified coverage perpetuates the myth of Parks as the quiet seamstress who was too tired to stand to give up her seat.

Rosa Parks in Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story (Nyack, NY: Fellowship of Reconciliation, 1957).


Runaway! Fugitive Slave Ads in Newspapers
Fugitive slave ads abounded in American newspapers until the end of the Civil War. Abhorrent in their treatment of people as property, these brief descriptions of African Americans who escaped enslavement, albeit sometimes temporarily, bear witness to the bravery and unique characteristics of individuals who defied a massively powerful system allied against them.

Sissieretta Jones: World-Famous Black Soprano
Jones sang for kings, presidents, and to audiences around the world, becoming the highest paid African American entertainer of the late 19th century. She headlined at Carnegie Hall and was hailed as one of the greatest sopranos of her time, yet she never performed on the operatic stage.

Negro Romance, nos. 2 and 3 (Aug. and Oct. 1950 respectively).

Top Acquisitions of 2019
Each year the Serial and Government Publications Division adds new items to our collections. Negro Romance, no. 2 (August 1950) and no. 3 (October 1950), were two of our top acquisitions for last year. The short-lived comic book series is known for featuring positive African American characters and stories rather than the stereotypes seen in other comics from that time. We are now the only public institution owning all four issues of this rare comic book.

We look forward to writing more blogs on African American history and culture as presented in newspapers and comic books.

* The Chronicling America historic newspapers online collection is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program and jointly sponsored by the Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


  1. Sharing my THOUGHTS.

    The political climate is incressingly organized by whose dollars?

    Those impacted by changes in state and nationally policies usually have the least voice in the process of policy making.

    An individual with a problem may not have the poeer to be heard, but communities of individuals who share common problems and tack action to build power can confront those eho have been ignoring or abusing them.

    Grassroot organzing – be carefully whose money is behind the movement, though the need for the voice of those impacted in the policy making process on the national level is urgent.

    Secrete to Organzing is no longer.
    Door knock
    Leadership development, Small group meeting, Visits to individuals, Big meeting, Action Campaign ( research, identify target pressure tactics, actiib , cialitiib building, legal actiob, lobbying, media eventsx negotiation, VICTORY OR LOSS- CELEBRATION.

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