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Read about the history of African Americans, including books, articles, media, primary and open access sources.
Last Updated: Feb 14, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Swank Digital Campus

Stream feature films chosen by COM faculty to support your courses from studios like MGM, Paramount, and Sony. Stream 24/7 on or off campus.

Want more on Swank? Go to the How to Use Swank Digital Campus Guide. Must be on campus or have a COM ID to watch.

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A Raisin in the Sun - Lorraine Hansberry
A substantial insurance payment could mean either financial salvation or personal ruin for a poor black family.

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Freedom Writers
A young teacher inspires her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education beyond high school.

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Ghosts of Mississippi
A Mississippi district attorney and the widow of Medgar Evers struggle to finally bring a white racist to justice for the 1963 murder of the civil rights leader.

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Mississippi Burning
Two FBI agents with wildly different styles arrive in Mississippi to investigate the disappearance of some civil rights activists.

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Muscle Shoals
A documentary that celebrates Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and the signature sound he developed in songs such as "I'll Take You There", "Brown Sugar", and "When a Man Loves a Woman".

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A chronicle of Martin Luther King's campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.

Films on Demand

FODGet high quality academic and archival streaming videos from sources like BBC, National Geographic, PBS, TED and more.

Want more on FOD? Go to the How to Use Films on Demand (FOD) Guide. Must be on campus or have a COM ID to watch.

  • America in the 20th Century: The Civil Rights Movement (90:00)  Icon
    A part of the series America in the 20th Century. Anyone who thinks the civil rights movement began and ended with Martin Luther King Jr. will discover a new, eye-opening view of history in this program. It reveals a long-running struggle for racial equality starting with Civil War– and Reconstruction-era events, moving through the blight of Jim Crow and the formation of the NAACP and other groups, and depicting the drama of King’s movement in varied, evolving phases. The work of Malcolm X, the rise of the Black Power movement, and the future of America’s ongoing equality battles are also examined.
  • Bill Moyers Journal: Slavery, Race, and Inequality in America (57:00)  Icon
    The Pew Research Center recently reported that black Americans are more dissatisfied with their progress now than at any time in the past quarter century. In this edition of the Journal, Bill Moyers gets perspective from historical and cultural sociologist Orlando Patterson and Glenn C. Loury, an economist and expert on race and social division. Moyers also interviews the Wall Street Journal’s Douglas Blackmon about his book Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. In addition, the program previews the POV documentary Traces of the Trade, an examination of racial inequality in America through the prisms of the legacy of slavery and the current socioeconomic landscape. Broadcast date: June 20, 2008.
  • Buffalo Soldiers: An American Legacy (44:00)  Icon
    By the end of the Civil War, nearly 200,000 black soldiers were serving in the Federal Army. After the war, many decided not to return to a life of sharecropping and racial oppression, instead volunteering to battle outlaws and Indian raiders along the western frontier. This program uses dazzling reenactments and the expertise of military historians to tell the multifaceted story of the Buffalo Soldiers, a name given to black troops by their Native American adversaries. Viewers learn about the daily lives and daunting assignments of these proud African-Americans, the harsh environments in which they conducted missions, and the deeds of individual Buffalo Soldiers such as Sgt. Emanuel Stance, Lt. George Burnett, and Henry Flipper—the first black cadet to graduate from West Point, whose promising career was ended by an unjust and later discredited court martial. Hosted by well-known TV judge Joe Brown.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.: Look Here (30:00)  Icon
    One of the first in-depth televised interviews given by Martin Luther King, Jr., this program was first broadcast on October 27, 1957, on the NBC News show Look Here. Filmed only a year after he had reached national prominence during the Montgomery bus boycott, the 27-year-old King offers host Martin Agronsky invaluable insights into his goals, his philosophy, and his unshakable dedication to equality and civil rights. NBC.
  • Prince Among Slaves (60:00)  Icon
    In 1788, the slave ship Africa set sail towards America with hundreds of men, women, and children in its cargo hold. Eight months later, the few Africans who survived the voyage found themselves put up for sale in Natchez, Mississippi. One of them, 26-year-old Abdul Rahman, made an astonishing claim—that he was the prince of a West African kingdom larger and more developed than the newly formed United States. This program presents the true story of a royal figure caught up in humanity’s most horrific enterprise, who endured the humiliation of slavery without ever losing his dignity or his hope of freedom. PBS. (60 minutes)
  • Save Our History: Voices of Civil Rights (45:00)  Icon
    Representing the largest archive of oral histories of the civil rights movement, this program offers a fascinating look at one of the defining social movements in American history—told through the personal stories of men, women, and children who lived through the turbulent period. To compile these hundreds of personal narratives, a group of journalists, photographers, and videographers embarked on a 70-day bus trip around the country. The trove of material they collected, from family photographs to emotional on-camera testimony, forms far more than a textbook history lesson. It emerges as a narrative document that defines and humanizes the movement’s trajectory while providing insight into the Brown v. Board of Education case, the saga of Martin Luther King Jr., and much more. A&E Television Networks. (50 minutes)
  • Scottsboro: An American Tragedy (90:00)  Icon
    In March of 1931, two white women stepped off a train in Paint Rock, Alabama, and accused nine black teenage passengers of gang rape. So began the Scottsboro case, one of the 20th century’s most fiery legal battles. This episode of American Experience chronicles the case, which generated what many view as the most divisive regional conflict since the Civil War, led to momentous Supreme Court decisions, and helped give birth to the civil rights movement. Distributed by PBS Distribution. (90 minutes)
  • Series: African-American Lives 2  Icon
    The first African-American Lives series revealed the power that comes from discovering one’s family history. In this second four-part series, Henry Louis Gates Jr. guides a new group of guests through poignant, eye-opening revelations of ancestry and inheritance. Drawing on DNA analysis, genealogical research, and family oral tradition, Professor Gates ushers Maya Angelou, Morgan Freeman, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Tina Turner, and others into the distant past, then reconnects it to the present. In doing so, he helps viewers tap into rich veins of U.S. history while highlighting its profound connection with Africa. PBS 4-part series, 54 minutes each.
  • Series: The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross  Icon
    Written and presented by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., director of W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, this six-hour series explores the evolution of the African-American people, as well as the multiplicity of cultural institutions, political strategies, and religious and social perspectives they developed -- forging their own history, culture and society against unimaginable odds. Commencing with the origins of slavery in Africa, the series moves through five centuries of remarkable historic events right up to the present -- when America is led by a black president, yet remains a nation deeply divided by race.
  • Soundtrack for a Revolution: Freedom Songs from the Civil Rights Era (82:00)  Icon
    On picket lines, in organizational meetings, even in police wagons and jail cells, songs of protest and inspiration helped drive the civil rights movement. Showcasing many of those songs, this stirring documentary explores the history of the era through archival footage, interviews with key civil rights activists, and performances by contemporary artists assembled specifically for the film. Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, former NAACP chairman Julian Bond, freedom rider Hank Thomas, civil rights organizer Jim Lawson, former King aide Dorothy Cotton, and music legend Harry Belafonte are among those interviewed. On-camera performers include John Legend, Joss Stone, Wyclef Jean, and The Roots. Featured songs: Wade in the Water, This May Be the Last Time, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ’Round, We Shall Not Be Moved, and more.
  • The March on Washington, 1963 (21:00)  Icon
    This period film footage captures the mood and the magic of the civil rights march in Washington, D.C., in August 1963, through stirring scenes such as huge crowds singing, thousands of marchers carrying signs, musical performances, and speakers at the podium, including the Reverend Martin Luther King. From the National Archives and Records Administration.


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Kathryn Park


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