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Our American Story

HBCUs: a legacy of shaping African American athletes

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have always been incubators for talent. In the post–Civil War Reconstruction years (1863–1877), dozens of HBCUs were founded to meet the educational needs of free and newly freed African Americans. Whereas most institutions barred or limited African American enrollment, HBCUs arose to provide higher education and vocational training.
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Collection Story

African Americans at Work: A Photo Essay

From enslaved workers in the 19th century to agricultural, industrial, and professional workers in the 20th and 21st centuries, African Americans have always been a vital part of the American workforce. This photo essay documents African Americans at work from the 1860s to today.
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Notes on the March on Washington

On August 28, 1963, a quarter of a million people rallied on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Traveling from cities, towns, and villages around the country by bus, car, plane, train, and on foot, they convened to find strength in a shared history, future, and purpose.
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Collection Story

Babies, Beauty, and Bravery: Black Excellence on the Covers of The Crisis

The editors of The Crisis used images of darling children, beautiful women, and strapping soldiers on their issue covers as symbols of Black excellence in order to discredit the idea that Black people were naturally inferior as a race. These covers reflect the many ways that African Americans maintained racial pride in the face of oppression.
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Collection Story

Capturing Community and Creating Coalitions: Frank Espada in the 1960s

Beginning in the early 1960s, photographer Frank Espada (1930–2014) attended rallies and boycotts, snapping images of New York youth and the battles fought by them and their families.
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Our American Story

Our American Story - Juneteenth

This year marks the second anniversary since President Joe Biden named Juneteenth a federal holiday in 2021. As more Americans celebrate Juneteenth with family and community, it is vital to share the important historical legacy behind Juneteenth and recognize the long struggle to make it an officially recognized holiday. It is an opportunity to honor our country’s second Independence Day and reflect on our shared history and future.
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Our American Story

From Slavery to Freedom

From inventing dry-cleaning to sugar refining to the first steamboat propeller, African Americans have been active contributors to the economic, political, and social legacies of the United States. Much of U.S. history, however, is contextualized by the system of slavery that was imposed on African Americans for 250 years—and how those born under that system and in its aftermath have crafted a culture deeply rooted in resilience and looking toward the future. The transition from slavery to freedom included many roadblocks as the country confronted the question of how resources could reach newly freed African Americans.
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Freedman's Bureau

The Freedmen’s Bureau: New Beginnings for Recently Freed African Americans

The Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, with General Robert E. Lee’s surrender of the Confederate Army to the Union Army. The country was in complete chaos. How could a country that was so strongly divided mend itself into one cohesive unit? What would happen to over 3.5 million enslaved persons who have now been freed?
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Collection Story

Musical Life at HBCUs

The National Museum of African American History and Culture's collection features many objects connected to the musical legacy of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The material culture of HBCU music is a powerful illustration of the roles these institutions have played in the lives of Black musicians for over 150 years.
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Collection Story

Mary McLeod Bethune: “First Lady of Negro America”

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune sought to uplift and to buttress the lives of Black Americans through education, organizations, politics, and strong leadership. Her endeavors were recognized by those she served, members of the press, presidents of the United States, a first lady of the United States, and countless others impacted by her works.
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