Articles on African Americans

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Through his music, Lead Belly rejected the stereotype that country music was the domain of white artists, while blues music was reserved for blacks. Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Lead Belly’s music defied racial categorization

Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection depicts the fully-formed artist – a blues musician, yes, but also a performer of string-band, country and pop songs.
Willie O'Ree, the first black NHL player, debuted for the Boston Bruins in 1958. The Root

Only the puck was black: a story of race and the NHL

Last week’s release of Black Ice – the memoir of Val James, the first African American to play in the NHL – brought me back to when I was a teenager living in Boston. It was the winter of 1978 – the year…
Sicily, 1943: Whose blood was this U.S. soldier getting? NARA

Desegregating blood: A civil rights struggle to remember

Until 1950 the Red Cross segregated blood. It was thousands of African-Americans during World War II who forced the Red Cross to include them as donors and helped pave the way for activism of the 1960s.
Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan, 1950. Photograph by Gordon Parks. Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Gordon Parks exhibit offers intimate glimpse into segregation-era life for African Americans

In the spring of 1950, Gordon Parks, the first African-American photographer for Life Magazine, returned to his hometown of Fort Scott, Kansas. On assignment for the magazine, Parks photographed his middle…
US National Archives and Records Administration

The ‘nuts and bolts’ heroes of the civil rights movement

Black History Month provides an opportunity to pull back the curtain and turn the spotlight on individuals who made a difference in the successes of the civil rights movement during the 1960s. I had the…
The movie Selma takes King – best known to Americans as an orator – and turns him into an organizer. Wikimedia Commons

How the movie Selma made MLK human again

It’s been almost 60 years since Martin Luther King, Jr. became a household name during the 1955-1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott, and some may find it astonishing that, until the recent release of Selma, he’s…
Ferguson citizens protest after the jury’s verdict. EPA/Larry W. Smith

Ferguson has reinforced racial fear and lethal stereotypes

The decision not to charge police officer Darren Wilson with the unlawful shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown has reignited protests across the US. The judgment was met by violent outrage on the streets…
Literary awards can have a profound impact on sales – and, in the future, which books get published and promoted. QQ Li/Flickr

How this year’s National Book Awards could change the face of children’s literature

There’s a lot of attention right now on diversity in children’s books – or, more accurately, the lack of it. It’s not a new problem. White people have been talking about this issue since Nancy Larrick…
Just who were the voteres these elections? Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Minority voters tell their stories

Editor’s note: voter turnout in this year’s midterm elections - 36.6% - was lower than in the 2010 midterms (40.9%.) According to the Pew Research Center the “party of non-voters” is more racially diverse…
The Slave Trade painted by a French abolitionist artist.

Slavery in America: back in the headlines

Foundation essay: This article is part of a series marking the launch of The Conversation in the US. Our foundation essays are longer than our usual comment and analysis articles and take a wider look…
The blurring of the line between the military and the police, especially in the US, is now on the political agenda following recent events in Ferguson, Missouri. EPA/Roberto Rodriguez

Urban combat: Ferguson and the militarisation of police

Anyone watching the footage coming out of Ferguson, Missouri in recent days would be forgiven for thinking they had tuned into a scene from a combat zone, rather than suburban America. There has been a…
Excessive use of force? EPA/David Carson

Michael Brown, Ferguson and the nature of unrest

The death of Michael Brown is heartbreaking, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family and his community at this very difficult time … I know the events of the past few days have prompted…
The acquittal of George Zimmerman, accused of the murder of black teenager Trayvon Martin, suggests there still exists deep-seated racial injustices in the US. EPA/Joe Burbank

The accumulated injustices of the Trayvon Martin case

The criminal justice system has always been at the sharp end of race relations in the United States. Not only have African Americans been treated more harshly than whites as suspects and offenders, they…

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