As we enter the second week of Black History Month many of us are overwhelmed by the issues, digital options and live events that are happening in communities, sponsored by a host of nonprofits, educational and advocacy groups. An abundance of riches, to be sure. Still, the opportunities to learn are so robust that we don’t know where to start! In an effort to focus, not limit, here are some thoughts:
Some time back I posted a listing of sources of Black History Month public events and activities. It’s not the most recent but it’s a starting point: https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/black-history-month-2017-theme/
Still, events are not the only way to learn the history of African Americans and their contributions to Minnesota and the world. David V. Taylor produced a significant guide to historical resources published as the Minnesota Historical Guide in 1976.
Though dated, it offers a firm foundation to the topic. Dr. Taylor also produced a readily accessible e-book exploring resources on African Americans in Minnesota – it’s available commercially through most e-book vendors. http://www.mnhs.org/mnhspress/books/african-americans-minnesota-0
Sometimes biographies or autobiographies tell the story best. Though there are hundreds of African Americans who have shaped Minnesota history it took the intrepid staff of the St Paul Pioneer Press to suggest just a few historic icons in this 2016 article: http://www.twincities.com/2016/02/09/15-trailblazing-black-minnesotans-you-should-know-more-about/
In 2004 TPT produced North Star: Minnesota’s Black Pioneers, the story of twelve early Minnesotans who helped to shape the state. Happily, it’s still accessible online at http://video.tpt.org/video/2365018705/
Another approach is to focus on a specific era or issue. Again, to narrow the universe, the reader might want to start with a significant book written by William D. Green, former Superintendent of Minneapolis Schools, now on the Augsburg College faculty. Dr. Green’s informative and readable history. Degrees of Freedom, covers the story of civil rights in Minnesota 1865-1912. Get to know Dr. Green and his significant study by listening to these interviews with the author:
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HCL0qyvZF8 -Access Minnesota- Dr. Green’s interviewed by Jim duBois..
- http://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/05/26/bcst-books-civil-war-minnesota-bill-green – or hear Tom West’s interview with Dr. Green on MPR
- To read more about Degrees of Freedom, check Amy Goetzmann’s review in MinnPost: https://www.upress.umn.edu/press/press-clips/minnpost-degrees-of-freedom-chronicles-black-history-in-minnesota-during-the-post-civil-war-era (Yes, this is an indirect route but the direct route doesn’t work.)
Last, but definitely not least, you might want to check out this recent publication from the University of Minnesota Press. https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/who-writes-for-black-children, edited by Katharine Capshaw and Anna Mae Duane. Here’s the publisher’s description of this unique resource:
Who Writes for Black Children? unlocks a rich archive of largely overlooked literature read by black children. From poetry written by a slave for a plantation school to joyful “death biographies” of African Americans in the antebellum North to literature penned by African American children themselves, this volume presents compelling new definitions of both African American literature and children’s literature.
So much to learn, so little time – especially when African American History Month gets short shrift by being celebrated during the shortest month of the year!