African-American History Month: Happy Birthday, Frederick Douglass!

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass, and this month is African-American History Month. To celebrate, we are highlighting favorite items from the Library’s collections. This post is reprinted from “Building Black History,” the January–February issue of LCM, the Library of Congress Magazine, available in its entirety online.


This 1881 lithograph, “Heroes of the Colored Race,” depicts prominent African-American leaders of the second half of the 19th century. Flanking Douglass in the center are Blanche K. Bruce and Hiram Revels, the only two African-Americans to serve as U.S. senators in the 19th century. The trio is surrounded by other prominent figures, including Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, and scenes of African-American life. Prints and Photographs Division

In 1847, Douglass founded the North Star newspaper, proclaiming as its motto “Right is of no sex—truth is of no color—God is the Father of us all, and all we are brethren.” Douglass’ ability as an editor and publisher, a contemporary African-American journalist said, did more for the “freedom and elevation of his race than all his platform appearances.” Serial and Government Publications Division

In 1848, Douglass befriended abolitionist John Brown, who later planned an ambitious scheme to free the slaves. Douglass declined to join Brown’s 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry, but federal marshals nevertheless issued an arrest warrant for Douglass as an accomplice. He eventually was exonerated. In 1860, Douglass wrote this lecture, shown here in draft form, as a tribute to Brown, “a hero and martyr in the cause of liberty.” Manuscript Division

During the Civil War, Douglass recruited African-American troops for the Union. Among his recruits were sons Charles and Lewis, who enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts regiment. In this letter of July 6, 1863, Charles writes his father from Camp Meigs, relating a near-fight with an Irishman and rejoicing over “the news that Meade had whipped the rebels” at Gettysburg. Manuscript Division

In this handwritten draft of his memoirs, Douglass describes his escape from slavery. Douglass had been unable to include precise details about the method he used to escape from slavery in his earlier narratives, published before emancipation. He did so in this last version of his life story, “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass,” which was published in 1881. Manuscript Division


Inquiring Minds: Songwriter Finds Inspiration in Library’s Digital Newspapers

Rob Williams first used the Library’s digital newspaper collections more than a decade ago as a high-school teacher of U.S. history in Powhatan County, Virginia, near Richmond. Today, he’s a recording artist—he released his third album, “An Hour Before Daylight,” in October. But he still draws inspiration from the same online resources that captivated his […]

Inquiring Minds: Diaries Shed New Light on Laos’ 20th-Century Upheavals

Ryan Wolfson-Ford spent two weeks at the Library of Congress in May thanks to the Library’s Florence Tan Moeson Fellowship Program. It supports scholars pursuing research in Asian studies using the collections in the Library’s Asian Division. Wolfson-Ford is completing his doctoral degree in history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His research focuses on Laos […]

Journalism, Behind Barbed Wire

For these journalists, the assignment was like no other: Create newspapers to tell the story of their own families being forced from their homes, to chronicle the hardships and heartaches of life behind barbed wire for Japanese-Americans held in World War II internment camps. “These are not normal times nor is this an ordinary community,” […]

World War I: A New World Order – Woodrow Wilson’s First Draft of the League of Nations Covenant

(The following was written by Sahr Conway-Lanz, historian in the Library’s Manuscript Division.) Like many individuals around the globe, Woodrow Wilson was shocked by the outbreak of a devastating world war among European empires in 1914. As President of the United States, however, he had a unique opportunity to shape the outcome of this catastrophic […]

Women’s History Month: Those Magnificent Women in Their Flying Machines

This is a guest post by Henry Carter, digital conversion specialist in the Serial and Government Publications Division. In the first decades of the 20th century, aircraft were new, and flying was exciting. Newspapers, the most powerful media outlet of the time, reported broadly on this new technology and its celebrities as well as the […]

World War I: From Red Glare to Debonair

(The following post is by Jennifer Gavin, senior public affairs specialist at the Library of Congress.) With its more than 90-year history, most Americans are aware of the military-based newspaper “The Stars and Stripes.” But many don’t know that it came into existence as a morale-builder after Americans surged into France during World War I […]

Experts’ Corner: Presidential Podcasts

(The following article is from the January/February 2017 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) Library of Congress historians Julie Miller, Barbara Bair and Michelle Krowl contribute their knowledge of the presidents to a new podcast series. In 2016, The Washington Post presented a podcast series called […]

Library in the News: December 2016 Edition

Happy New Year! Let’s look back on some of the Library’s headlines in December. Topping the news was the announcement of the new selections to the National Film Registry. Outlets really picked up on the heavy 80s influence of the list. “It’s loaded with millennials,” said Christie D’Zurilla of The Los Angeles Times. “Ten of […]