Tag Archives: African American History Museum

For Turn-of-the-Century African-Americans, the Camera Was a Tool for Empowerment

Regal would be the best way to describe the photograph of Mary Church Terrell. Delicately swathed in lace, satin and crystals, the charismatic civil rights activist is seen in profile. The front of her tasteful Gibson pompadour is dappled with light and her face is illuminated as if a single ray of sun had parted the clouds in the sky. It’s a highly flattering image of the D.C. activist and suffragist, and Terrell thought so herself. Continue reading For Turn-of-the-Century African-Americans, the Camera Was a Tool for Empowerment

How Business Executive Madam C. J. Walker Became a Powerful Influencer of the Early 20th Century

For Madam C.J. Walker, a new life began when she decided to find a cure for her own hair loss. Her ailment would become the impetus for a large, multi-faceted, international company that sold hair care products—including an inventive vegetable shampoo that she developed—and that offered training to women both as hair stylists and as sales representatives. Continue reading How Business Executive Madam C. J. Walker Became a Powerful Influencer of the Early 20th Century

The Women of the Black Panther Party and Their Powerful Influence

It’s a striking photograph: six young black women with a spectrum of complexions, faces paused in mid-exclamation, fists raised in simultaneous solidarity at a Black Panther rally. Even their afros are emphatic and resolute as they stand in tandem in Oakland’s DeFremery Park, then and now a popular gathering place for the community’s African-Americans. There, a grove of trees honors Bobby Hutton who, at just 16, had been the Panthers’ first enlisted member and at 17, died after police shot him—purportedly, as he tried to surrender. Continue reading The Women of the Black Panther Party and Their Powerful Influence

Smithsonian Curator Weighs in on Legacy of Frank Robinson, Barrier-Breaking Baseball Great

During his 21 seasons as an outfielder, first with the Cincinnati Reds and later with the Baltimore Orioles among other teams, Major League Baseball hall of famer Frank Robinson accumulated some of the best stats in baseball history. He hit 586 career home runs, was named an All-Star 14 times and remains the only player to earn the Most Valuable Player award in both leagues, receiving the title in 1961 for his work with the Reds and in 1966 while playing for the Orioles, respectively.

Continue reading Smithsonian Curator Weighs in on Legacy of Frank Robinson, Barrier-Breaking Baseball Great

Was the 1968 TV Show “Julia” a Milestone or a Millstone for Diversity?

The storyline sounds innocuous. A young, well-dressed widow is raising an adorable 5-year-old son in a nice apartment while working as a nurse. However, using that middle-class premise for the first comedy to showcase a black family in 1968 turned “Julia” into a battlefield in the still-ongoing war about how African-Americans are represented on TV today. Squarely situated at an intersection between popular culture and racial politics, “Julia” became a beachhead for critics who insisted that television should not sacrifice African-American authenticity to win viewers. Continue reading Was the 1968 TV Show “Julia” a Milestone or a Millstone for Diversity?