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Black History Month 2021

Throughout the month of February, we'll be celebrating Black History Month with a collection of stories that explores the achievements of African Americans and their central role in U.S. history.

Do you know about Harriet Robinson Scott*? How about Bobby Marshall,^ Lou Bellamy,** or Sharon Sayles Belton^^? Today is the last day of Black History Month 2021, yet there’s always more to learn about the achievements and contributions of Black and African American people to the fabric of U.S. History. One resource to continue learning specifically about Black history in Minnesota is the Minnesota Historical Society’s Black History, Black Voices initiative, which curates ongoing programs, content, and resources created by members of Minnesota’s Black community. Take some time to learn about Fort Snelling, Penumbra Theatre, and more with MNHS’s curated videos and articles. Or explore other resources to keep learning about Black history. And remember to stay curious.

* Sued for freedom alongside her husband, Dred Scott, in 1846. The couple, who met while at Fort Snelling, would wait 11 years for the infamous U.S. Supreme Court case Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857. The Dred Scott decision helped propel the country toward Civil war.
^ Of all of the great athletes in Big Ten history, he was arguably the best of all time. The former Minneapolis Central star was the first person of color to ever play football in the conference once known as the Big Nine, in 1904.
** Penumbra Theatre founder and artistic director emeritus. Penumbra Theatre creates professional productions that are artistically excellent, thought provoking, relevant, and illuminate the human condition through the prism of the African American experience.
^^ First African American and first woman to serve as Mayor of Minneapolis. The St. Paul native held the post from 1994 to 2001.

Moses. General Tubman. Minty. The African American abolitionist and suffragist Harriet Tubman was known by many names and continues to be an icon of freedom after more than 100 years. Born into slavery sometime between 1815 and 1825, she would go on to escape north to freedom, return to the south many times freeing hundreds of enslaved people, and be the first woman in the Civil War to lead an assault. Read about her life and accomplishments, browse photos, and learn about the Underground Railroad from Harriet Tubman Historical Society.
Photo: Public Domain

As the oldest Black-owned newspaper in Minnesota, the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (MSR) has established itself as one of the most trusted sources for Black news. MSR has highlighted some of the events taking place in celebration of Black History Month.
Community Action Partnership of Hennepin County would like to highlight a few of MSR’s picks and encourage you to participate as you’re able.

Madam C. J. Walker (1867-1919) made her fortune thanks to her homemade line of hair care products for Black women. Born Sarah Breedlove, the 5th child of her parents who had been enslaved, she was the first in her family to be born free after the Emancipation Proclamation. Her own experience with hair loss inspired her to create hair products designed for Black women, the “Walker system” of hair care. Getting her start by selling products directly to Black women door to door, Walker built an empire that employed saleswomen she called “beauty culturalists.” The self-made millionaire used her fortune to fund scholarships for women at the Tuskegee Institute and donated to the NAACP, the Black YMCA, and other charities.
Photo: Scurlock Studio / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

“African-American influences are so fundamental to American music that there would be no American music without them.”
—“Musical Crossroads” by Dr. Steven Lewis, curator at the National Museum of African American Music

From spirituals to jazz and from funk to rap, there’s no denying the contributions of African American and Black musicians to the catalog of American music. Explore photos, paintings, videos, and more curated by the Smithsonian, featuring dozens of stories from the history of African American music.
Ella Fitzgerald depicted on a postcard. The image is from 1948, and the photograph is by Bruno of Hollywood. Ella Fitzgerald Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born in 1919 in Cairo, Georgia. 28 years later, he broke Major League Baseball’s infamous “color barrier” when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Major Leagues had not had an African-American player since 1889, when baseball became segregated. Robinson’s dazzling athletic prowess and grace under pressure effectively led to the integration of the Major Leagues. His 10-year career with the Dodgers, and his outspoken activism in his later years, helped set the stage for the burgeoning civil rights movement.
This article from goes more in depth about Jackie Robinson’s life, career, and achievements.
Photo: Public Domain

In 2016, Margot Lee Shetterly published Hidden Figures, a book about female, African American mathematicians who worked at NASA during the space race. The biographical text follows the lives of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, three “human computers” who overcame discrimination, and became leaders in the space program. Late that same year, a movie loosely based on the book was released to critical acclaim.
Photos by NASA

This morning, Dr. Hightower, CAP-HC’s Executive Director, shared the following in his weekly Monday morning email to staff:
“I am pleased to greet each of you on the 1st day of Black History Month. [from Moorpark College] ‘Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history … the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter Godwin Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month … The Black History Month 2021 theme, Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity, explores the African diaspora and the spread of Black families across the United States.’ Celebrating diversity and inclusion is an integral part of CAP-HC. It is part of the future that we are trying to create!”
This article from Ebony, written in 2016 and revisited in 2020, explores the history of Black History Month and Woodson.
Photo by Glodi Miessi on Unsplash

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