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Afro-American Studies

About the Photos

The photos on our Web site reflect some of the people and events covered in the department's courses.

Born a slave in Talbot County, Maryland, Frederick Douglass eventually became the country's leading orator, an editor, a woman's suffragist and an abolitionist. His autobiography, in two editions, remains one of the most compelling narratives of the nineteenth century.

Taking the name "Sojourner Truth" to match her great ambitions, Isabella Baumfree was a leading activist for women's rights and abolition. She gave a still-famous speech at the 1851 Akron Convention, characterized in reports by the rhetorical phrase "Ain't I a Woman?"

The Apollo Theater, in New York City, was the heart of black entertainment in the 20th century. The Apollo helped to characterize Harlem as a center of black culture and a world city.

A black feminist pioneer, Ida B. Wells was the leading activist against lynching, using her skills as a journalist and researcher to build arguments that national organizations would later adopt. Our own Paula Giddings, Elizabeth A. Woodson 1922 Professor, has written a celebrated biography of Wells, Ida: A Sword among Lions.

At center is Thurgood Marshall, pictured in May 1954 on the steps of the Supreme Court with George Hayes and James Nabrit, after segregation was declared unconstitutional in the Brown v. Board decision. Marshall, who headed the NAACP legal team, later went on to become the first African American Supreme Court justice, in 1967.

Lyndon B. Johnson, addressing cameras at signing of the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964. The act, which outlawed racial segregation in schools, public places and employment and created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, was spurred along by the civil rights movement, including the historic March on Washington in 1963.

Born around 1753 in what is presently Senegal, Phyllis Wheatley became the first African American to publish a collection of poetry. In 1772, Wheatley had to be examined before a board of Boston scholars and local leaders to verify that she, a black woman, could have written her poems. Their attestation was included as a preface to her book.

W.E.B. DuBois's classic book, The Souls of Black Folk, published in 1903, is one of the first interdisciplinary studies, blending history, sociology, philosophy, and memoir. The book introduced the idea of double consciousness as a central trope of African American experience.

In 1993, Toni Morrison became the first African American, male or female, to win the Nobel Prize for literature. Known for her lyrical prose and unmatched imagination, Morrison has argued consistently that the experiences of African Americans are central, rather than marginal, to American culture. Her 1987 novel, Beloved, is considered a masterwork of the twentieth century.