Celebrating Black History month on the Web
February 1, 1997
Web posted at: 1:00 p.m. EST
From CNN Interactive Writer Kristin Lemmerman
(CNN) -- The United States marked Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday January 20, and national Black History Month began February 1. Bearing those occasions in mind, the Site Seer decided to highlight several sites that promote understanding of African-American culture and the civil rights movement and a few that focus on the most prominent U.S. civil rights leaders.
Martin Luther King's life and writings
The Martin Luther King Jr. page, run from Stanford University, includes an extensive chronology of events pertaining to the civil rights leader's life, beginning in 1810 with the birth of one of his great-grandfathers.
Part of the site is sponsored by The King Center, also known as the Martin
Luther King Jr. Center For Nonviolent Social Change Inc., which was
established by King's widow Coretta Scott King in 1968 and is still run by family members today.
The other part of the site comes from the "King Papers
Project" at Stanford University, a project intended to bring together the most
significant of King's unpublished works. Included on the Web site are letters he exchanged with his parents and friends, a letter to The Atlanta Constitution, and papers he wrote in college. Few of the papers are currently available online. However, his now-famous "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered in 1963, can also be found at this site.
When I found the Seattle Times' special page on Martin Luther King Jr., my initial thought was, "Why Seattle?" The city isn't thought of as a hotbed of racial tensions, and even in the 1960s King spent little time in the Northwest, instead spreading the word in cities where racial tension was rampant, and blatant inequalities abounded. However, he did make one visit to Seattle in 1961, at the request of a fellow pastor in Seattle. The visit appears to have made a lasting impact on the city.
The site features a less complete -- but illustrated -- timeline of King's life and sound clips from three major King speeches. A similar illustrated partial timeline of major civil rights events is offered. Because it tracks events in the Seattle area as well as national events, it gives a clearer picture of how the country was dealing with civil rights issues on the local level. You can also access a catalogue of civil rights newspaper photos from the 1960s.
Malcolm X's influence on civil rights movement
If you know little about Malcolm X, The Malcolm X Pages site, run by an private individual, is a good starting point for learning about his life. It has a fairly large photo gallery, some sound from the civil rights leader, and three interviews that lay bare some of what Malcolm X stood for. If you go to this site, be sure to check out the 1963 Playboy interview posted there. It was conducted by Alex Haley, who went on to write "Roots."
The site also provides a list of links to other Malcolm X sites.
Learning more about ...
NetNoir, a San Francisco-based corporation, has made its mission to put Afrocentric resources on the World Wide Web. The group is spotlighting Black History Month, which runs for the entire month of February, in one of the more extensive assemblages of Web pages I found on the topic. They are eye-catching and easy to navigate, and include information on topics that other Web sites fail to mention.
There is no arguing that Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X are important figures in the civil rights movement, but they are not the whole story. Information on other aspects of African-American culture -- African-American quilters, the Harlem Renaissance, African folk tales -- provide for a broader look at the many contributions people of African descent have made to the American culture.
An interesting series of essays on the history of Africans in America is being published on the site. The essays, written by Anthony Lee, a professor at Cypress College in California who is finishing up his doctoral thesis at UCLA, start in pre-Colonial times and are slated to cover all periods up to the late 20th century.
The African-American Mosaic pages were set up by the Library of Congress to promote the Library's exhibit of the same name, due to open in 1998. Although the pages cover only four of the major periods in African-American history, they are nevertheless an excellent resource for learning about the history of African-Americans.
The sections covered -- the colonization of Liberia, the abolition of slavery, African-Americans' migration away from the South and later, their success in finding new employment opportunities through the Work Projects Administration -- include photographs, posters and portraits from their respective periods.
JPEG images of historical documents, also on the site, give a fascinating insight into life for African-Americans as long as 200 years ago. They include a petition from an African-American woman who had completed her medical degree, and intended to teach and practice medicine if allowed to emigrate to Liberia, and a handbill written by anti-abolitionists, which ends, "The Union Forever."
Born in a rambling, unfocused Usenet discussion group, A Deeper Shade of Black was started, according to its author, to give the discussion direction and to provide information to people who wanted to know more about black culture. Today the site provides information on the history of black people not just in the United States, but worldwide. It also promises eventually to have film and literature reviews.
The history section began six years ago as a weekly posting on soc.culture.african.american, entitled "This Week in Black History." It has gradually expanded, moving into a full-fledged database searchable by date, name or topic. (And, of course, you can still read "This Week in Black History," updated at the end of every week.) If you want information, the databaseis very good -- it has a little information on each of a wide spread of topics, and each entry is cross-referenced where applicable. If you have information you want to share, the authors are ready to accept it.
The one thing that would make the database even better would be more detailed information. Because the site started out providing important dates, most of the information right now is still limited to key dates. However, the site is run by individuals, not a company, and it depends on volunteers for more information. Maybe in the future essays on black history topics will be included in the site as well.
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