Part I: Our Foundations
Literacy and Liberation
by Frederick Douglass and Frances E. W. Harper
Two abolitionists reflect on the relationship between reading, writing,
by Ralph Ellison
The award-winning author's second novel is a celebration of Juneteenth-June
19, 1865, the day two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation
when Union Troops arriving in Galveston, Texas, brought news of freedom
in the slaves.
Rising from the Past
by James Weldon Johnson, Sabah As-Sabah, and J. Rosamund Johnson
In "The Creation," "Jubilee," and "Lift Ev'ry
Voice and Sing" poets celebrate the ancestors and traditions of African-American
Treasures of Time
by Florida Ruffin Ridley
Civil rights advocate Ridley discovers a personal history in the contents
of an old box in the kitchen of her Boston home.
Part II: Rhythms of Black Life
by Rita Dove
The first African-American poet laureate was also a writer of fiction.
This is her story of a girl who "don't want no second-hand man,"
and a man who is one.
from The Wedding
by Dorothy West
The youngest member of the Harlem Renaissance writes of a father's reflections
on courtship and marriage on the eve of his daughter's wedding.
by Gwendolyn Brooks
"If you wanted a poem," said the Pulitzer Prize-winner Brooks,
"you had only to look out a window." Here, in two poems, she
examines white privilege and black urban poverty.
by Nikki Giovanni
A popular poet from the 1960s challenges white stereotypes of black life.
by Toni Morrison
Nobel Prize-winner Morrison explores the rhythms of black life in New
York City during the 1920s.
The Jazz of Poetry
by Jabari Asim and The Last Poets
The rhythms of poetry and music-jazz and hip-hop-are celebrated in works
that pay tribute to the African-American oral tradition and the swing
Part III: Reflections on Growing Up
from Notes of a Native Son
by James Baldwin
Baldwin's father's funeral prompts the author to reflect on his father's
Why I Like Country Music
by James Alan McPherson
The Pulitzer Prize-winner recalls his first love and a special teacher
in this coming-of-age story of a young black boy growing up in the South.
Beauty: When the Other Dancer Is the Self
by Alice Walker
This Pulitzer Prize-winner writes of a childhood accident that changed
by Robert B. Stepto
Yale University professor Stepto remembers the neighborhood of his childhood
and faces the pain of recognizing he has come far away from it in this
excerpt from Blue as the Lake.
from Unafraid of the Dark
by Rosemary L. Bray
Former editor of the New York Times Book Review recounts how winning a
scholarship to a private school in Chicago led to her painful realization
that she was poor.
A Day with My Father
by Danzy Senna
Young Birdie Lee writes of a humiliation that occurred one weekend afternoon
in this excerpt from Caucasia.
Part IV: Fighting on Two Fronts: On Being Black and American
On Being Black and American
by Langston Hughes and W.E.B. DuBois
Two prominent intellectuals explore the contradictions in being black
from Black Boy
by Richard Wright
Wright tells about his childhood and his relationship with his father
and reflects on blood ties, poverty, and race.
World Wars and the Black Soldier
by Editors of The Crisis and Grant Reynolds
Two newspaper editorials examine the contradiction between fighting for
freedoms abroad while facing inequality at home.
Letter to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt
by Celestine Hobson
A soldier's wife writes the First Lady about the challenges she faces
in her efforts to support her nation's war effort.
by Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Nobel Peace Prize-wining leader of the Civil
Rights movement compares its principles with the principles of
those who opposed the Vietnam War.
Black Men and Public Spaces
by Brent Staples
The journalist recalls his own experiences as a graduate student when
white people mistook him for a mugger or a thief when they met him on
the street at night.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
One of the many songs of the Civil Rights
movement, this anthem captures the spirit of the struggle for equality.