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Black History Month 2003
February Celebrates, Honors African-American Heritage

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Carter G. Woodson

Carter G. Woodson
Photo: Courtesy of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

February 2003 -- In 1926, American historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week, hoping to focus attention on African-American contributions to the world. Born to parents who had been bound into slavery, Carter went on to earn a doctorate from Harvard University and dedicated his life to studying and documenting the African-American experience.

Today, Americans celebrate black history and culture throughout the month of February, honoring such figures as civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., educator Booker T. Washington and freedom fighter Harriet Tubman.

To celebrate Black History Month, NPR News offers comprehensive coverage commemorating the lives and histories of African-American pioneers.

Recent NPR Coverage

Preserving Pacifica Radio's Archives
Poet Langston Hughes is interviewed in 1963 on Pacifica's KPFA in Berkeley, Calif. Photo: Pacifica Radio Archives

Pacifica Radio's audio archives -- a collection featuring recordings of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Lenny Bruce, Langston Hughes (pictured at left) and other artists and political figures -- are in danger of fading away. NPR's Bob Edwards discusses the network's effort to preserve 50 years of historic recordings with archive director Brian DeShazor. Feb. 28, 2003

America's Last Mass Lynching
The grave of Mae Murray Dorsey, one of the victims of the killings. Photo: Charley Brooks.

On a summer afternoon in 1946, in rural Georgia, a white mob killed four young black people in a hail of gunfire. The brutal killings -- the last mass lynching in America -- led to a national outcry. The FBI investigated, but no one was ever convicted of the murders. On Morning Edition, NPR's Renee Montagne interviews Laura Wexler, author of a book that examines the incident. Feb. 28, 2003

Mamie 'Peanut' Johnson, Pitching Pioneer
Mamie 'Peanut' Johnson, circa 1953; Photo courtesy Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

She wasn't quite in a league of her own, but 50 years ago pitcher Mamie "Peanut" Johnson was among just a handful of women to play baseball in the Negro Leagues. In an interview with NPR's Bob Edwards, Johnson says her rejection by a white women's team was the best thing that could have happened to her career. Feb. 18, 2003

Doris McGillan's Ethnic Dolls
Doris McGillan's hand-crafted dolls are draped in African fabrics

Artist Doris McGillan gives new meaning to the phrase "fabric of society." Drawn to the intimate stories told in the clothes of African cultures, McGillan uses authentic material to create dolls that portray the African -- and African-American -- experience. Feb. 17, 2003

Teaching Slavery
Slavery may have ended about 135 years ago, but the way we tell the story of slavery is still a work in progress. Talk of the Nation guest host Melinda Penkava talks about the different ways of learning about slavery -- from television to the movies to the classroom. Feb. 11, 2003

'Unchained Memories' of Slavery
During the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration interviewed 2,000 former slaves, capturing riveting oral history. Many of those stories are told in the HBO documentary Unchained Memories, and in an accompanying book. Alfre Woodard was among the actors lending voices to the production. She tells NPR's Scott Simon about her experience, and offers additional resources on the documentary. Feb. 8, 2003

Shades of Grey
NPR Senior Correspondent Juan Williams reports on a new book by Harvard sociologist Katherine Newman. A Different Shade of Grey: Midlife And Beyond in The Inner City is about the lives of poor blacks and Hispanics in parts of Harlem. Feb. 5, 2003

The Importance of Soul Food
Black-eyed peas, rice, yams, greens, okra and cornbread. To commemorate Black History Month, Talk of the Nation looks at the story of African Americans through the lens of southern cooking, often known as soul food. Read recipes online. Feb. 4, 2003

'The Quilts of Gee's Bend'
'Housetop' - four-block variation, circa 1965, cotton and cotton/polyester blend, 77x82 inches, by Mary L. Bennett (b. 1942)

Four generations of African-American quilters in Gee's Bend, Ala., created works of art unique to their isolated hamlet. "The Quilts of Gee's Bend" are now on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. See photos of the quilts online. (Photo left by Steve Pitkin/Pitkin Studios (c)2003 Tinwood Alliance collection) Feb. 4, 2003

William Alexander Leidesdorff
Brooke Stephens, financial commentator for The Tavis Smiley Show, takes a look at William Alexander Leidesdorff, a 19th-century black businessman. Feb. 3, 2003

The Emancipation Proclamation
January marks the 140th anniversary of the Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. The Tavis Smiley Show begins its commemoration of Black History Month with a closer look at Lincoln. Jan. 31, 2003

In Depth

View past NPR coverage of Black History Month.

View an extensive timeline of African-American history.

View other resources on the Web, including timelines, photo exhibits and documents related to black history.

Read an essay by NPR's Tavis Smiley about the importance of Black History Month.

Participate in an online discussion.