In honor of Black History Month, I’d like to introduce you to BlackPast.org, an absolutely amazing–and seriously comprehensive–source of information about African American history, as well as the history of people of African descent around the world. The website was created in 2004 by Dr.Quintard Taylor, a professor of American History at the University of Washington, Seattle, and his graduate assistant, George Tamblyn. The site quickly garnered international interest, and in the years since its inception it has grown to thousands of pages that contain an astounding amount of information—timelines, bibliographies, the full texts of speeches, biographies—and new information is being added every day. The site is intended for both scholarly and general audiences, so the entries are written in an accessible tone. I could spend all day just learning about people I’d never heard of or filling in the gaps around half-told events. Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find on this site, which truly does, as the tagline says, both remember and reclaim:
1. Suffrage: Information about black women who were instrumental in ensuring that American women were able to vote, including Mary Church Terrell and Ida Wells Barnett. You’ll also find information about the grassroots action it took to create the movement toward suffrage, including the formation of the Female Anti-Slavery Society and the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs.
2. Civil Rights: Information about the Women’s Political Council of Montgomery, which was founded by Mary Fair Burks and prepared for a boycott of the bus system for years, so that all was ready for Rosa Parks’ famous protest. Information, too, about women who were the backbone of this movement, like Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker.
3. Landmarks: A list of African American historical landmarks by state. These are national historic landmarks that have been certified by the National Park Service. See how many you recognize—and find some to visit the next time you travel.
4. The History of Black Composers: In honor of Black History Month for 2013, the creators at BlackPast.org gathered a comprehensive list of black composers to honor classical music composer Margaret Allison Bonds. The list includes composers, opera performers, ballet performers, concert singers, and instrumentalists, as well as links to performances on YouTube. Just, wow.
5. Black Past in the Classroom: Classroom resources for teachers, including lessons, ideas from teachers, and fun activities. The resources here are fantastic, and the volunteers who put them together are available to answer questions.
After spending just a little time on this site, I am struck anew by how much we don’t know—how much we aren’t taught—about black history, and what a loss this omission is for us all. The next time you hear someone say we don’t need Black History Month, send them to this site, and let the history speak for itself.