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An Uncrowned Tudor Queen, the Science of Skin and Other New Books to Read

Smithsonian
England’s most notorious dynasty owes much to the trials of a 13-year-old girl: Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond. On January 28, 1457, the young widow—her first husband, Edmund Tudor, had died at age 26 several months prior—barely survived the birth of her only child, the future Henry VII. Twenty-eight years......
History

How a Black Fireman Brought a Pole Into the Firehouse

Smithsonian
In the 19th century, American firefighters had two ways of descending from their sleeping quarters to their horse-and-buggy conveyances on the ground floor: either by spiral staircase—installed to keep wayward horses from wandering upstairs—or through a tube chute, similar to the enclosed slides you see at playgrounds today. The stairs......
History

Mary McLeod Bethune Was at the Vanguard of More Than 50 Years of Black Progress

Smithsonian
The 19th Amendment, ratified in August 1920, paved the way for American women to vote, but the educator and activist Mary McLeod Bethune knew the work had only just begun: The amendment alone would not guarantee political power to black women. Thanks to Bethune’s work that year to register and......
History

Created 150 Years Ago, the Justice Department’s First Mission Was to Protect Black Rights

Smithsonian
Amos T. Akerman was an unlikely figure to head the newly formed Department of Justice. In 1870, the United States was still working to bind up the nation’s wounds torn open by the Civil War. During this period of Reconstruction, the federal government committed itself to guaranteeing full citizenship rights......
History

One Hundred Years Ago, a Lynch Mob Killed Three Men in Minnesota

Smithsonian
Over the years, the horror of June 15, 1920, when three black men were lynched by a white mob in Duluth, faded away behind a “collective amnesia,” says author Michael Fedo. Faded away, at least, in the memories of Duluth’s white community. In the 1970s, when Fedo began researching what......
History

How Oral History Projects Are Being Stymied by COVID-19

Smithsonian
Diana Emiko Tsuchida lost her grandfather at age 8, long before she was able to understand the hardships he experienced as a Japanese American citizen incarcerated by the U.S. government during World War II. Not one to let another opportunity slip by, Tsuchida interviewed her father, who was also interned......
History

158 Resources for Understanding Systemic Racism in America

Smithsonian
SMITHSONIANMAG.COM | June 4, 2020, 11:47 a.m. In a short essay published earlier this week, Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch wrote that the recent killing in Minnesota of George Floyd has forced the country to “confront the reality that, despite gains made in the past 50 years, we are still......
History

A Notorious 17th-Century Pirate, the Many Lives of the Louvre and Other New Books to Read | History

Smithsonian
When Captain Henry Every and his crew of marauders ambushed the pride of the Mughal fleet in September 1695, they set in motion an international crisis with lasting implications. As Steven Johnson, author of The Ghost Map and How We Got to Now, writes in Enemy of All Mankind: A......
History

The Science of Fear, the Royal Scandal That Made France Modern and Other New Books to Read | History

Smithsonian
To confront her crippling fear of heights, journalist Eva Holland jumped out of an airplane and learned to rock climb. But while she endured these experiments with a semblance of aplomb, she found that the experience did little to assuage her fears. “I was facing my fear, but it was......
History

What Made Emmett Ashford, Major League Baseball’s First Black Umpire, an American Hero | Arts & Culture

Smithsonian
As the first black umpire in Major League Baseball, Emmett Ashford encountered plenty of hostility. The pitcher Jim Bouton documented Ashford’s difficulties in Ball Four, his revelatory diary of the 1969 season: “Other umpires talk behind his back. Sometimes they’ll let him run out on the field himself and the......
History

A Tour of Beauty Industry Pioneer Madam C.J. Walker’s Indianapolis | Travel

Smithsonian
One of America’s most prolific entrepreneurs also happens to be one of the lesser known business leaders of the early 20th century. But that could change this week when Netflix airs a miniseries in her honor. Called “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker,” the four-part drama......
History

Experience 1930s Europe Through the Words of Two African American Women | History

Smithsonian
Five years before the publication of the first Negro Motorist Green Book—the beloved guide of destinations deemed safe for African Americans in a nation segregated by Jim Crow—two cousins named Roberta G. Thomas and Flaurience Sengstacke chronicled what life was like for two young, African American women traveling abroad. Published......
History

How Automobiles Helped Power the Civil Rights Movement | History

Smithsonian
The driver glanced nervously into his rear-view mirror. The police motorcycles he had noticed a few blocks earlier were definitely trailing him. He glanced at his speedometer, determined to follow every traffic law. Then, as he stopped to let a passenger out of his car, the motorcycles pulled up toward......
History

Madam C.J. Walker Gets a Netflix Close-Up | History

Smithsonian
Madam C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove in Louisiana in 1867, was the most successful black wellness mogul of her day. Now a new Netflix series will show how this enterprising daughter of freed slaves empowered generations of black women to prosper. Breedlove was in her 30s when she began treating......
History

Nine Women Whose Remarkable Lives Deserve the Biopic Treatment | History

Smithsonian
SMITHSONIANMAG.COM | Feb. 7, 2020, 12:41 p.m. This year’s roster of Academy Award nominees is much like those of previous decades: predominantly male and white. Of the 20 men and women nominated for acting awards, only one—Harriet’s Cynthia Erivo—is a person of color. And despite strong offerings from the likes......
History

How World War I Planted the Seeds of the Civil Rights Movement | At the Smithsonian

Smithsonian
In early April 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress seeking to enter the United States in the first World War, he urged the “world must be made safe for democracy.” A. Philip Randolph, the co-founder of the African-American magazine The Messenger, would late retort in......
History

A Massive New Database Will Connect Billions of Historic Records to Tell the Full Story of American Slavery | History

Smithsonian
In 1834, a 22-year-old Yoruba man who would come to be known as Manuel Vidau was captured as a prisoner of war and sold to slave traders in Lagos, today the largest city in Nigeria. A Spanish ship transported him to Cuba, where he was sold to a white man......
History

Lonnie Bunch Sizes Up His Past and Future at the Smithsonian | At the Smithsonian

Smithsonian
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is a historical and cultural nexus where American life bears its complex, painful and often self-contradictory soul. NMAAHC is built on fascinating dualities: celebrating African-American history, yet bearing witness to its greatest tragedies; exhibiting objects from everyday homes, yet......
History

Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch Weighs In on Legendary Photo Archive of African-American Life | At the Smithsonian

Smithsonian
A hand-wringing bankruptcy auction put the fate of one of the most significant collections of 20th-century photographs documenting the African-American experience up in the air. More than 4 million prints and negatives that make up the storied legacy of the Johnson Publishing Company, the parent company of essential black publications,......

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