The African-American Perspectives collection documents a wide range of events, topics, and issues in African-American history and culture. This collection recreates the public dialogue among African Americans a century ago, and highlights political, cultural, and social issues still debated today.
1) The materials cover important social issues and movements such as race relations, the development of racial pride, migration of African Americans to the North, and the colonization of Africa by freed slaves.
Search on race relations, pride, migration, and colonization. For example, search on pride for text such as,
My first advice then to the black man would be, be not ashamed of your race or color. Dare to be a black man, and accept the position that God has assigned you, and do not believe that it is an inferior or degrading one. Be a black man. It is as honorable to be a black man as it is a white one. Aim to make yourself not a white man, but a perfect black man. Have faith in your race, in its capability and in its future. Give your presence, your influence, your support to your own race and color.
From the pamphlet: "A duty which the colored people owe to themselves. A sermon delivered at Metzerott hall, Washington, D.C., November 17, 1867 by Charles Brandon Boynton."
2) The collection covers changes in the political issues faced and the political causes espoused by African Americans during a one hundred year period.
Search on politics and governmentfor text such as,
Never in human history did men so belie their own professions as did our forefathers when they set up, what they claimed to be, a free government and then made constitutional provision for the enslavement of a portion of the people.
From the pamphlet: "A constitutional defense of the Negro: by Algernon Sidney Crapsey; delivered at a mass meeting of citizens in the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church, Washington, D.C., December 15, 1901."
3) The collection presents an excellent selection of well known African-American authors including Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary Church Terrell, Benjamin W. Arnett, Alexander Crummel, and Emanuel Love. The collection also includes less well-known African-American writers whose work helps illuminate the concerns of generations from another era.
Search on prominent authors by name. Search on specific topics to discover writings of lesser known authors. For example, search on Mary Church Terrell (President of the National Association of Colored Women) for text such as,
Consider if you will, the almost insurmountable obstacles which have confronted colored women in their efforts to educate and cultivate themselves since their emancipation, and I dare assert, not boastfully, but with pardonable pride, I hope, that the progress they have made and the work they have accomplished, will bear a favorable comparison at least with that of their more fortunate sisters, from the opportunity of acquiring knowledge and the means of self-culture have never been entirely withheld. For, not only are colored women with ambition and aspiration handicapped on account of their sex, but they are everywhere baffled and mocked on account of their race. From the pamphlet: "The Progress of Colored Women."
4) The collection offers a strong chronicle of civil rights issues.
Search on voting rights, franchise, rights of women, segregation, Jim Crow laws, violence, employment, and education. For example, search on segregation for text such as,
Mr. Morse introduced a bill to provide separate schools for colored children, and for other purposes. This bill gave to all colored children rights in the common schools, but where there was not room for them, or where popular prejudice would not permit their attendance, separate schools were to be provided.
From the pamphlet: "The black laws: speech of Hon. B.W. Arnett of Greene County, and Hon. J.A. Brown of Cuyahoga County, in the Ohio House of Representatives, March 10, 1886."
5) Religion and the role of the church in African-American history figure prominently in the collection. Many sermons and church-sponsored conferences feature speeches on politics, government, and civil rights. Other pamphlets focus on family life and personal issues.
Search on religion, sermon, church, and specific topics. For example, search on sermon for text such as,
The conflict of right and wrong is not confined to the human heart, but found in the laws and customs of men. They find themselves incorporated into the fundamental law of nations. In the declaration of rights and wrongs, they are often sanctioned by the Legislators formulating them, and spreading them on the Statute book. They are seen in the judicial decision of the Supreme Court, in the dissension of the minority from the majority. But though wrong may be written in the constitution, and affirmed by the judicial decision of a thousand courts, it will not be right. It may be law, but law is not always right.
From the pamphlet: "Centennial Thanksgiving sermon, by Benjamin William Arnett, 1876."
6) One fascinating aspect of the collection is presentations on American history by African Americans. Pamphlets such as "History of American Abolitionism: Its Four Great Epochs" (1861), "The Negro as a Soldier in the War of Rebellion" (1897), and "Chronology of the War with Spain" (1898) document how history has been written and perceived by African Americans over time. These historical narratives were written at important moments in history, when the issues were passionate, contemporary concerns.
Search on specific topics or titles of pamphlets. The collection especially is strong in titles that reflect on the meaning, experience, and memory of the Civil War.