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African American History in the U.S.

See the faces of just some of the many African Americans who have contributed to building the United States into the country it is today. Read more >>

African Americans in the early history of the United States had an extremely difficult start as immigrants. Having been primarily forced to immigrate to a new continent, African Americans worked through slavery to become a powerful force that influenced our nation to value equal rights among all men and women of all races.

Between 1555 and 1865, most Africans arrived in the Americas as the result of slavery. Overcoming slavery and the resulting prejudice, the African American community has greatly contributed to the art, culture, and economic growth of the United States.

In the 1930's, the newly formed employment and infrastructure Works Progress Administration (WPA) program paid people to interview living ex-slaves in the United States. Thanks to this initiative, we have a recorded history of slavery in the United States. Their narratives were powerful and show us all how recent the heritage of slavery really is and why it affects us all. Here is part of the narrative of one of these men and women:

"Well, Sir, Cap'n, I was born in Richmond, Virginny, in 1848. Befo' I was ole 'nuff to 'member much, my mammy wid me an' my older brudder was sold to Marse John Calloway at Snodoun in Montgomery County, ten miles south of de town of Montgomery.

Marse John hab a big plantation an' lots of slaves. Dey treated us purty good, but we hab to wuk hard. Time I was ten years ole I was makin' a reg'lar han' 'hin de plow. Oh, yassuh, Marse John good 'nough to us an' we get plenty to eat, but he had a oberseer name Green Bush what sho' whup us iffen we don't do to suit him . . .

Nawsuh, we didn't git no schoolin' 'cep'in' befo' we got big 'nough to wuk in de fiel' we go 'long to school wid de white chillun to take care of 'em. Dey show us pictures an' tell us all dey kin, but it didn't 'mount to much . . .

When de war started 'mos' all I know 'bout it was all de white mens go to Montgomery an' jine de army. My brudder, he 'bout fifteen year ole, so he go 'long wid de ration wagon to Montgomery 'mos' ebry week. One day he come back from Montgomery an' he say, 'Hell done broke loose in Gawgy.' He couldn't tell us much 'bout what done happen, but de slaves dey get all 'cited 'caze dey didn' know what to 'spect. Purty soon we fin' out day some of de big mens call a meetin' at de capitol on Goat Hill in Montgomery. Dey 'lected Mista Jeff Davis president an' done busted de Nunited States wide open.
" - Walter Calloway, Birmingham, Alabama interviewed by W.P. Jordan in the 1930's

From Dred Scott, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, and W.E.B. Du Bois through Langston Hughes, Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, and Medgar Evers to Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Hank Aaron, Maya Angelou, Oprah, and Barack Obama and countless others, African Americans have impacted the nation in uncounted ways. The narratives are powerful, and so are the pictures in these pages, showcasing the history of African Americans in the United States.
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A photo of Russell J. Moore with his wife Gwendoline Simms/Moore - wedding photo
People in this photo:
Russell J Moore
Jan 31, 1921 - Jan 29, 1994
Annapolis, MD
This is an early photo of Mr Riley B. King (1925 - 2015) described as a blues singer, song writer, and guitarist - but better described as legend. B.B. King (his stage name) was born in Mississippi on a cotton plantation near the town of Itta Bena. His parents were sharecroppers. His recording career began with his first single in 1949. It took a couple of years for him to catch on, but when he did, a legend was born. He was married twice and had between 11 and 15 children. At the time of his death, on May 14th, 2015, he was living in Las Vegas. You could say "the thrill is gone" but his music and his guitar, Luciille, will be with us forever. Thank you, B.B!
People in this photo:
Riley "B.b." B. King
Sep 16, 1925 - May 14, 2015
A photo of an unknown slave woman with a child.
Shared on Oct 6, 2014 by:
A photo of Roosevelt Fowler
People in this photo:
Roosevelt Fowler
Mar 10, 1935 - Sep 17, 1987
Los Angeles, CA
A photo of Nora (surname unknown) in Lousiana,
Jimi Hendrix with Ron Gray and band members: My father, Ron Gray, was a concert promoter in the 1960's in central to northwest Louisiana (Monroe, Shreveport, etc). Jimi Hendrix played a concert in Shreveport, Louisiana on July 31, 1968. My father, Ron Gray, is standing next to Hendrix. Comments by Gary E. Gray.
People in this photo:
A photo of John Stroman Jr
People in this photo:
John Stroman Jr
Sep 12, 1925 - Nov 22, 2010
neptune township, nj, us
Grandmother Rosa Williams; "Black Water area of" Perry County, Alabama, Mobile, Alabama.
People in this photo:
"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." Muhammad Ali certainly did when he took on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971. Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. on January 17th, 1942 is one of the most famous professional boxers of all time. Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali after joining the Nation of Islam in 1964. In 1967, just a few years after the boxer won the World Heavyweight Championship, he refused to be drafted into the U.S. military, based on his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War.
People in this photo:
Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.
Jan 17, 1942 - Jun 3, 2016
A photo of Marvin Cunnigan
People in this photo:
Marvin Cunnigan
1946 - September 1969
Denver, CO, United States
A photo of William H Wilson
People in this photo:
William H Wilson
Jul 27, 1936 - Aug 23, 2000
Paso Robles, CA
A photo of Erma Thorne
People in this photo:
Erma Thorne
Mar 12, 1897 - Mar 11, 2000
Rio Rancho, NM
A portrait of Joe A Counts and his wife Emma (Rivers) Counts.
People in this photo:
Joe Allen Counts Sr.
Denmark, SC, United States
A Civil War veteran and free man, Lewis Martin was in an unmarked grave for 121 years until a community effort was made to mark his grave with a tombstone on November 2, 2013. Civil War veteran. Company E, 29th U.S. Colored Infantry. He was wounded in the Battle before Petersburg, Virginia (commonly The Battle of the Crater). He was sent to the General Hospital at Alexandria, Virginia and later transferred to Harewood Hospital in Washington, DC. He received a generous pension for his disabilities but never found work. He died from alcohol abuse, as was reported the local paper.
People in this photo:
Lewis Martin
1840 - 1892
A photo of the Newest members of the Army Nursing Corps in WW One. African American Nurses were finally accepted into the U.S. Army Nurse Corp. as a result of the 1918 influenza outbreak. There were many more nurses than just these that were ultimately serving in military hospitals
A photo of George Roberts, slave to freeman privateer. In the fall of 1812 he served onboard Captain Richard Moon’s privateer 'Sarah Ann' and was among six American seamen accused of being British subjects and taken prisoner when the Sarah Ann was captured by HMS Statira off the Bahamas on September 13, 1812. Captain Moon denied that they were British: Eventually, Roberts and the other American seamen were released. After the war, it is unknown what trade he had as a freeman or if he continued serving on-board various merchant vessels from the port of Baltimore, Maryland. What is known is that he was allowed to participate as one of the Old Defenders’ of Baltimore of 1814 during parades commemorating the anniversary for many years. He lived to the age of 95 (1766 -- 1861)
People in this photo:
George Roberts
around 1766 - Jan 16, 1861
A photo of World War I heros, Harlem Hell Fighters: On the left is Needham Roberts. Next to him is Henry Johnson. Both were recognized for their combat with the French Army and recipients of the Croix de Guerre. Decades later, Sgt. Johnson would received the US Medal of Honor.
People in this photo:
The nine African American soldiers were just home from the war. It was Feb. 12, 1919, and most were bundled in heavy coats as they posed for the photographer on the deck of the USS Stockholm. The New York City-based unit (the 369th Infantry Regiment) was famous for its prowess in battle and the indignities it suffered at the hands of many white officers. Discrimination was so bad that the regiment was shunted off to fight with the French army and equipped with French helmets and French rifles, historians say. It was the Germans who gave them the moniker, Hell Fighters. The French government awarded the regiment the Croix de Guerre, and bestowed 171 individual medals for valor
An engraved frontispiece portrait of Abolitionist Rev. Jermain Wesley Loguen (1813 -- 1872) from his autobiography, "The Rev. J. W. Loguen, as a slave and as a freeman" (1859), written in the third-person. In 1813, Jermain Wesley Loguen was born into slavery in Davidson County, Tennessee; the son of David Logue, his white enslaver, and his enslaved mother, Cherry. Known then as "Jarm Logue," he escaped to Canada in 1834. and then went to Rochester, New York, where he attended Beriah Green's abolitionist school. Loguen and his family moved to Syracuse in 1841, where he taught school, served as a licensed preacher of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and became one of the nation's most active agents of the Underground Railroad. The Loguen house in Syracuse was a principal station on the Underground Railroad and he was popularly known as the "Underground Railroad King" for helping over 1,500 fugitives escape from slavery. After the Civil War, Loguen continued his church work and became a bishop of the AMEZ denomination in 1868. In 1872, tuberculosis forced him to resign and seek treatment. Loguen died on September 20, 1872 and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Syracuse.
People in this photo:
This formal picture of an unknown man was taken in Nashville, Tennessee c. 1900. For this portrait he is wearing mended clothing. Poor but proud
A photo of Benjamin ("Ben") J. Carr who was the porter for the Tennessee Senate and Supreme Court from ca. 1890-1910. He was responsible for establishing Hadley Park and was one of the people involved in the founding of Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial College (now Tennessee State University). He was also the president of the Negro Farmers Alliance in Tennessee. In his final years, he was a realtor.
People in this photo:
A photo of Hattie McDaniel
People in this photo:
Hattie McDaniel
Jun 10, 1895 - Oct 26, 1952
A photo of Walter Cade III's sister Toni Cade Bambara.
People in this photo:
Miltona Mirkin (Cade) Bambara
Mar 25, 1939 - Dec 9, 1995
A photo of Titus Ussery (1908-1933)
People in this photo:
Titus Ussery
1908 - 1933
A photo of Jodie C Sanford
People in this photo:
Jodie C Sanford Sr.
Feb 2, 1920 - Jan 25, 1994
Bullard, TX
A photo of Ruby D Turner and husband Ervin Turner. She was 14 in this picture
People in this photo:
Ruby D Turner
Jul 9, 1924 - Jan 21, 2000
Water Valley, MS
A photo of Butterfly McQueen who appeared in "Curley McDimple" in New York. She was lovely to meet.
People in this photo:
Butterfly McQueen
Jan 8, 1911 - Dec 22, 1995
New York, NY
A photo of Mary (Winston) Jackson, a mathematician and engineer at NASA.
People in this photo:
Mary (Winston) Jackson
Apr 9, 1921 - Feb 11, 2005
A photo of Mabel Roy Mouton who was Assistant Chief of Research Programs at NASA's Trajectory and Geodynamics Division in the 1960s.
People in this photo:
Mabel Roy Mouton
1929 - Jun 25, 1990
A photo of Katherine Johnson who worked for NASA and was responsible for computing the trajectories, launch windows, and emergency back-up return paths for many flights. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.
People in this photo:
Katherine (Coleman) Johnson
Born: Aug 26, 1918
A photo of Dorothy Vaughan. Dorothy was the acting head of the West Area Computers at NACA (later NASA) and later became a computer programmer. She is featured in the 2016 film "Hidden Figures."
People in this photo:
Dorothy (Johnson) Vaughan
Sep 20, 1910 - Nov 10, 2008
A photo of Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey aka Frederick Douglass
People in this photo:
Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey
around 1817 - Feb 20, 1895
A photo of Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey aka Frederick Douglass
People in this photo:
Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey
around 1817 - Feb 20, 1895
A photo of Muriel Cleo Preston, Graduate Camden high School
People in this photo:
A photo of Paul Lawrence McEady
People in this photo:
Paul Lawrence McEady
1951 - Oct 25, 2010
Sicklerville, NJ, United States
A photo of Paul Lawrence McEady Camden High School Graduate 1969
People in this photo:
Paul Lawrence McEady
1951 - Oct 25, 2010
Sicklerville, NJ, United States
A photo of Melvin Mceady
People in this photo:
Melvin McEady
Mar 4, 1904 - September 1984
Camden, NJ
A photo of Norton B Wilder
People in this photo:
Norton B Wilder
Dec 1, 1913 - Apr 29, 2000
Lynchburg, VA
A photo of Doll Jefferson (on left). Man is unknown. Helen & Doll were sisters.
People in this photo:
A photo of Mattie Jones Reid
People in this photo:
Mattie Reid
1875 - 1933
A photo of Nat King Cole and daughter Natalie Cole in the mid 1950's. Natalie sang on her father's Christmas album in 1956 and began performing at age 11. A life-long career in singing and acting followed these early performances. She died on December 31st, 2015, leaving behind a son who is also a musician - the 3rd generation of musicians.
People in this photo:
Nat King Cole
Mar 17, 1919 - Feb 15, 1965
A photo of Cedric W Dotson (1959 - 2002) and family
People in this photo:
Cedric W Dotson
Sep 4, 1959 - May 3, 2002
Warren, OH
A photo of my beloved father, Lawrence Andrew Moore , born 1906. Died 1972 - another one of the handsome and dapper Moore brothers. Not sure when photo was taken . It was in Charlotte, North Carolina
People in this photo:
A photo of Maglonette Eliza (Gordon) Goode-Mcclain (1923 - 1997)
People in this photo:
Maglonette Eliza (Gordon) Goode-Mcclain
May 14, 1923 - Jun 21, 1997
Livingston Manor, NY
A photo of the Kelley family: Ann (Kelley) Browning, Robert Kelley, Margaret "May" Kelley, James Kelley, Frederic "Rick" Kelley, Paul Kelley, Betty (Kelley) Johnson, Clarence Kelley, Charles Kelley, Dorothy (Kelley) Martin, William and Lucinda Kelley (parents).
People in this photo:
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