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The African American story is central to our nation’s history. Collections documenting the contributions of African Americans in countless fields, along with the struggles and achievements inherent to their stories, can be found in the records of every Smithsonian museum. Help us make these collections more accessible through transcription. Browse projects below and learn more by searching our blog, and by visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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301 Total Pages 112 Contributing Members

1984 SMITHSONIAN FOLKLIFE FESTIVAL: BLACK EXPRESSIVE CULTURE FROM PHILADELPHIA

Audio documentation has played a crucial part in capturing the many stories, performances, exchanges, and demonstrations that have taken place on the National Mall as part of the Festival of American Folklife (now Smithsonian Folklife Festival). For each program, documentation volunteers generated detailed "class style" notes to accompany audio recordings which often include presenter and participant names, subject keywords, song titles, and brief descriptions of the events taking place in real time. These notes are often the richest (or only) source of information about who was present and provide key references for understanding and interpreting the recorded content. While the styles, formats, and spelling accuracy vary across logs, they nevertheless serve as fundamental link between what actually took place and what is documented in audio, photo, and, video formats. 1984 Festival presentations included demonstrations of gospel singing, tap dancing, turntable scratching, break dancing, and blues music from Philadelphia.

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49 Total Pages 39 Contributing Members

A Cinema Apart: African American Film Memorabilia (Larry Richards Collection)

During the segregation era, an independent industry dedicated to the production of “race movies” for African American audiences emerged in response to the exclusion of black artists from Hollywood and to counter the negative, stereotypical representations of African Americans in mainstream movies. The Richards Collection features rare items that document this formative period. Larry Richards began collecting around 1986 after receiving a race film poster (The Bull-Dogger) to exhibit in the 4th annual film festival during Black History Month at the Free Library of Philadelphia. His collection of race film memorabilia spans most genres, including musicals, westerns, and horror. Richards’ collection contains over 700 objects covering a period of time from the early age of cinema up through the 1950s. Help us transcribe these race film materials and learn about some of the popular films in this genre.

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3 Total Pages 5 Contributing Members

A Decade of United Action, 1935-1945, National Council of Negro Women Brochure

Imagine launching a campaign to raise $55,000 in 1945, the year that World War II ended. This bold challenge by the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) exemplifies the highly organized activism of the clubwoman movement. In 1935, educator Mary McLeod Bethune founded the NCNW, building on the legacy of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACW), founded in 1896 to combat lynching. Both united local African American women’s clubs across the U.S. Clubwomen supported African American communities in myriad ways: fighting poverty, providing education, offering child care for working mothers, advocating for civil rights, and striving for international peace. A diverse collection of documents from the 1940s to 1960s awaits transcription, such as event programs, flyers, and tickets; an obituary; a meeting agenda in Spanish; and, a leadership handbook. Learn more about NACW programs that honored abolitionist Frederick Douglass and raised funds to preserve his home in Washington, D.C. and NCNW programs on cultural exchanges with British women after World War II. Look for the integral relationship of church and community; churches often hosted clubwoman events. Notice the presence of music and art, verbally and visually. Discover how African American clubwomen carried out their mission of “lifting as we climb,” and find a message written in the stars. Thank you for helping to make these archival documents searchable!

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49 Total Pages 53 Contributing Members

Abbott's Monthly Vol. II No. 1

From October 1929 to September 1933, "Abbott’s Monthly" successfully engaged readers with a cosmopolitan feel that featured unknown contemporary authors who addressed African American news while also writing fiction pieces. The publication was founded by Robert Sengstacke Abbott, founder and owner of the already popular "Chicago Defender," the most popular African American newspaper in the country at the time. The first edition of "Abbott's Monthly" sold nearly 50,000 copies and shortly thereafter soared to 100,000. However, the magazine in it's original form ceased publication in 1933 due to the Great Depression, but continued to be publish under a new name "Abbott’s Monthly Illustrated News," until 1934. Help us transcribe this Abbott’s Monthly to explore the culture of the 1930s.

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46 Total Pages 48 Contributing Members

Abbott's Monthly Vol. II No. 5

From October 1929 to September 1933, "Abbott’s Monthly" successfully engaged readers with a cosmopolitan feel that featured unknown contemporary authors who addressed African American news while also writing fiction pieces. The publication was founded by Robert Sengstacke Abbott, founder and owner of the already popular "Chicago Defender," the most popular African American newspaper in the country at the time. The first edition of "Abbott's Monthly" sold nearly 50,000 copies and shortly thereafter soared to 100,000. However, the magazine in it's original form ceased publication in 1933 due to the Great Depression, but continued to be publish under a new name "Abbott’s Monthly Illustrated News," until 1934. Help us transcribe this Abbott’s Monthly to explore the culture of the 1930s.

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4 Total Pages 3 Contributing Members

About the Messenger

Elijah Muhammad was the leader of the Nation of Islam (NOI) for most of the mid-twentieth century. Elijah Muhammad was born Elijah Robert Poole in 1897 in Georgia. After listening to NOI founder Wallace D. Fard speak about Islam and black empowerment, Poole dedicated his life to religion and changed his name to Muhammad. Elijah Muhammad would lead the NOI from 1934-1975 and mentor Muslim leaders such as Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, and Muhammad Ali. This work, written circa 1960 by a devoted follower, describes Muhammad in an ethereal manner.

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4 Total Pages 6 Contributing Members

Address by Mr. Tomlinson D. Todd President of the Institute on Race Relations

Issues with race and racial equity have a long history in the United States (US) and so do interracial organizations forming to combat discriminatory practices and demand social justice for all Americans. The story of the Institute on Race Relations, founded by Tomlinson D. Todd (1910 – 1987), is an example of a substantive but understudied history of collaborative anti-racist activism in the District of Columbia. The organization’s aim was to combat segregation and discrimination in the Nation’s Capital through activism and the “Americans All” radio program. Help us transcribe these records, and discover how this interracial organization addressed segregation and worked to end discriminatory practices in Washington, DC.

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11 Total Pages 23 Contributing Members

Address...Hon. Federick Douglass, delivered in the Congregational Church, on the twenty-first Anniversary of Emanicaption in the District of Columbia

On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act. The act freed approximately 3,000 slaves and paid slave owners for their release, thus ending slavery in the District of Columbia. Twenty-one years later, on the anniversary of emancipation in D.C., Frederick Douglass delivered a speech at Congregational Church. Transcribe this pamphlet to learn the details of Douglass’ speech and make it searchable for researchers.

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5 Total Pages 6 Contributing Members

Admission Tickets to the Institute on Race Relations Party

Issues with race and racial equity have a long history in the United States (US) and so do interracial organizations forming to combat discriminatory practices and demand social justice for all Americans. The story of the Institute on Race Relations, founded by Tomlinson D. Todd (1910 – 1987), is an example of a substantive but understudied history of collaborative anti-racist activism in the District of Columbia. The organization’s aim was to combat segregation and discrimination in the Nation’s Capital through activism and the “Americans All” radio program. Help us transcribe these records, and discover how this interracial organization addressed segregation and worked to end discriminatory practices in Washington, DC.

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2 Total Pages 3 Contributing Members

Advertisement card for a revival featuring the Cleveland Colored Quintet

This advertisement is for a 1947 revival and musical performance at the First Church of the Nazarene in Detroit, Michigan, by the Cleveland Colored Quintet, an all-male singing group based in Cleveland, Ohio.

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