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Blog Posts by Subject: African American Studies

Lorraine Hansberry: Dreamer Supreme

The Lorraine Hansberry Collection at the Schomburg Center For Research In Black Culture is a remarkably thorough record of family, personal, and professional papers, letters, manuscripts and photographs documenting her entire life as an artist and activist.Read More ›

One Man’s Library Education and the "Double V"

A Dutch author wrote to Ask NYPL, the ready reference division of The New York Public Library, with a request for information about a staff member of the NYPL on Staten Island in the 1940s. This library worker had been instrumental in encouraging the educational interests of the man who became the subject of the author's book.Read More ›

Dr. Cheryl LaRoche Presents "Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: The Geography of Resistance" at Columbus Library

“When you think about the Underground Railroad, it is a land based operation, moving from one section of the country (where slavery exists) to another where it doesn’t take place—You must negotiate the land to get your freedom. We haven’t focused in on the land itself in the exploration of the Underground Railroad. When you start to read the land you come up with some different conclusions." Hear more from the author on Tuesday, February 11 at 4 p.m. Read More ›

12 Years a Slave. What About 15 Years in a Cave?

We’ll know in one month if Steve McQueen’s film gets an Oscar. But one thing is sure: the heretofore largely unfamiliar Solomon Northup has become a household name.Read More ›

Zora Neale Hurston and the Depression-Era Federal Writers' Project

In 1933, the US government established the first of many New Deal projects and initiatives. Four years later, in September 1937, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston was published in New York. The connection between the two? While many readers know of the novel's seminal status (it has been one of the most lauded—and

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August Wilson's How I Learned What I Learned

Frederick August Kittle Jr. loved libraries. That's a point clearly made in How I Learned What I Learned, August Wilson's autobiographical play at the Signature Center, directed by Todd Kreidler, starring Ruben Santiago Hudson. Freddie Kittle Jr. preferred libraries to Pittsburgh schools which were not an easy way for him to learn. He also loved his mother, Daisy Wilson, and he loved people, particularly black people.

How I Learned What I Learned is a memoir 

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ON THE AIR: Music Landmarks in NYC - Yankee Doodle to Jay-Z

Pearl Street Native/Indigenous

AIR is a Native American and ancient colloquialism for music and voice, as heard upon the earth. Musicians and singers performed at festivals at sacred places like Pearl Street, where shells mounded for centuries, in Lenape tradition, to honor and "give thanks" for the sun, moon, stars, rain, wind and all elements of the air.

New Amsterdam. ca. 1625 - People arrived to the various ceremonies and festivals along the East River shoreline via rafts, canoes and by walking down the main island trail (widened for vehicles in the 

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Classroom Connections: 'Two Wars,' African Americans, Emancipation, and the American Revolution (Gr. 6-8)

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”—Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

The American Revolution symbolizes a critical moment in the history of the United States, and the Declaration of Independence is the key symbol of that moment. With its rhetoric of freedom and equality, the Declaration of Independence inspired the colonists to courageously fight for their rights. 

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Classroom Connections: 'Little Lionhearts,' Young People in African-American Civil Rights Protests (Gr. 6-8)

"I could not move because history had me glued to the seat. It felt like Sojourner Truth's hands were pushing down on one shoulder, and Harriet Tubman's hand pushing down on another shoulder" —Claudette Colvin (Interview on Democracy Now, March 2013)

As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and when we typically consider the 

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Classroom Connections: Lists for Lesson Planning (Gr. 6-12)

Aguilar Library, 1938 - Librarian w/ students. Want to know more about our current educational initiatives? See The ABC of Education: Why Libraries Matter by Maggie Jacobs, Director of Educational ProgramsWe have just shuttered the doors on our first Education Innovation @ NYPL Summer Institute. During this three week Institute, master teachers from NYC (and further afar) met curators from our Research 

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Classroom Connections: The Underground Railroad to Canada (Gr. 6-8)

"I left the States for Canada, for rights, freedom, liberty. I came to Buxton [Ontario] to educate my children" —Henry Johnson (pp. 307 A North-side View of Slavery: The Refugee, Or, The Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada)

Additional Resources for Further ReadingExpanded Text List - Slavery and the Underground ... Read More ›

When They Trod the Boards: Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad-Ass on Broadway

Being an actor doesn't shield you from having a conscience.

—Giancarlo Esposito

Giancarlo Esposito, as Gus Fring, stares down a sniper in the TV series Breaking Bad, 2011.Giancarlo, as Julio, sings in the Broadway musical Seesaw, 1973.A true NYC moment: Giancarlo and brother Vincent take a sidewalk hotdog break during the musical The Me Nobody Knows, 1971. Photo: NewsdayI don't know how the final season of the TV series Breaking Bad will end, but it is pretty clear that Walter White is on a one-way trip to hell. As the well-intentioned chemistry teacher turned 

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Memorial Day: Commemorating and Remembering Our Veterans and Those Who Serve

May 27th is Memorial Day. Did you know that this U.S. federal holiday goes as far back as the American Civil War in the 1860s?

Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, occurs ever year on the last Monday of the month of May and is the day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

For the past two centuries, the U.S. has been involved in many wars domestically and aboard. Many service men and women have put aside their jobs, families and lives to defend our country and principals of freedom during 

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Dance on Fire: Spring Programs at the Library for the Performing Arts

The Dance Division is ON FIRE this spring with programs and exhibitions featuring dance from around the world, all at the Library for the Performing Arts! An exhibit on flamenco, 100 Years of Flamenco in New York, will open on March 12 in the Vincent Astor Gallery, and another on Cambodian ballet, Memory Preserved: Glass Plate Photographs of the Royal Cambodian Dancers, will open on March 28 in the Plaza Corridor Gallery. Be sure to visit to check those 

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Django Unchained: Lorraine Hansberry Unbridled

Angelic stranger, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) grants freedom to hapless Texas slave Django (Jamie Foxx). Schultz, a kindly German dentist-turned-bounty hunter, provides Django with employment, trusting friendship and his first handgun. Django is reborn as a slave-turned-bounty hunter, becoming a vengeful black American superman on a dangerous and deadly mission to free his lovely German-educated wife, Broomhilda von Shaft (Kerry Washington), from a Mississippi cotton plantation.

Django Unchained, directed by

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Manhattan Woman and 20,000 Slaves

Genealogical Ties That Bind.

African Burial Ground Map OverlayWe met at the Chambers Street IRT subway station — Lynn Jencks, descendant of an early Dutch family, and me, descendant of Lenape, Dutch and Africans. About 400 years ago, Dutch and enslaved Africans arrived into the ancient Algonquian wilderness that became New York City. Lynn, who lives in Illinois, had never been to the property owned by her ancestors and worked upon by slaves.

"Christopher guided me out of the subway and we emerged into the crisp clear December 

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Clicks to the Black World

Digital Schomburg's online exhibitions on various aspects of the black experience have truly become a global phenomenon. They are attracting visitors from all over the world. From Argentina to Zimbabwe and Montenegro and the Maldives in between. What do they know that perhaps you don't?

In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience remains the most visited curated exhibition of The New York Public Library. With a few clicks, visitors from 206 countries and territories, including Kazakhstan, Tonga, Suriname, Mongolia and Malawi, 

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The Thing That Makes You Exceptional: Lorraine Hansberry in the Village

Lorraine Hansberry lived at 337 Bleecker Street. Her birthday is May 19.

A Raisin in the Sun was the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway. Here are some 

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April and Einstein on Race and Racism in Paris

This April — Fred Jerome and I, authors of Einstein on Race & Racism (2005) went to Paris for the unveiling of the French edition of our book.

Einstein at Lincoln UniversityThe title in French means Einstein - anti-racist - Quite fitting because our book focuses on Albert Einstein's little 

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A Poem A Day

April is National Poetry Month, and I promised myself to read a poem a day. Some poets of the black experience immediately came to mind: Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Claude McKay, Sonia Sanchez, Audrey Lorde, to name a few. But then I decided to venture unto new territory and immerse myself into recent works.

I selected four great poets — and distinguished scholars training new generations — who published collections in 2010 and 2011. I found history, current events and the future in their works; and grace, beauty, heartache, struggles and 

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