African American History

Learn about the achievements of African Americans who have shaped South Carolina and American history.

Black History Month is celebrated every February to honor the achievements of African Americans who have shaped American history. Historian Carter G. Woodson hoped to raise awareness of African American's contributions to civilization by establishing Negro History Week. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that included both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass' birthdays. The week was later expanded to a month in 1976 during the United States bicentennial.

PHOTO: On March 20, 1969, Black hospital workers at the Medical College of South Carolina in Charleston went on strike to protest the firing of twelve employees and to call for higher wages and union recognition.

Within this Collection

Teaching Ourselves

Video

The Freedmen’s Bureau supported African American education. Although the bureau didn’t operate schools or hire teachers, its agents helped build schools and supply them with books, and they sometimes...
Teaching Ourselves

Video

The American Missionary Society and other private benevolent societies from the North helped to establish more than five hundred schools and colleges for formerly enslaved people in the South...
Teaching Ourselves

Video

Freedpeople often had difficulty finding appropriate school buildings, and Black students regularly attended school in churches. Ministers were often happy to host schools in their churches, and...
Teaching Ourselves

Video

The school's new teacher has recently finished her training and this is her first teaching assignment. Black men and women were eager to teach in schools for freedpeople, and African American...
Teaching Ourselves

Video

This community member, the leader of a local mutual aid society , has been instrumental in raising funds to hire a new teacher. Black communities often pooled their money to build schools and pay...
Teaching Ourselves

Video

A popular book for teaching spelling and reading was Noah Webster’s Elementary Spelling Book, known as “the blue-back speller” because of its binding. Many enslaved people, including Frederick...
Teaching Ourselves

Video

Although this school has only a few students, many schools for freedpeople were overcrowded. Like most newly emancipated people, these children believe that education is the key to maintaining freedom...
Teaching Ourselves

Video

On January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, making him a symbol of Black freedom for years to come. As the war dragged on he began to recruit Blacks, free and enslaved, to the...
Violence and Hatred

Video

After the U.S. Army occupied Memphis on June 6, 1862, thousands of enslaved people escaped nearby plantations and took refuge in the city. They were often penniless, bringing with them only the...
Violence and Hatred

Video

This soldier is a member of the 16th U.S. Infantry Regiment stationed at Fort Pickering, who has been sent to take freedpeople to safety. Union forces captured Memphis on June 6, 1862 and took over...