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Black Lives, Black History: Historical Events

Guide to research and resources for African American History.


The following represent a few of the significant historical events in African American history in the U.S. Each of these events had a profound impact on the nation and on the African American population. Many of today's movies, television series, books, music, art, poetry, and literature grew out of these events and experiences.

Emancipation & Juneteenth

The Great Migration

Black Family Arrives in Chicago from the South, 1919. Public domain.

Between 1916 and 1970 more than six million African Americans moved from the rural South to the urban areas of the East Coast (New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh), Midwest (Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago), and the West (St. Louis, Los Angles). They sought better paying jobs, economic opportunities, and new lives free from the unjust segregation laws of the Jim Crow South.

This shift to an urban population presented new challenges in forms of competition for housing and jobs, continuing prejudice and racism, but also prompted the growth of the African American artistic movement known as the Harlem Renaissance or New Negro Movement. Music, art, poetry, and literature produced by African Americans burgeoned and flourished in the Northern industrial cities, giving voice to new political, cultural, and social thought.

For more information:

Christiansen, S. (n.d.) "The Great Migration (1915-1960)." The Black Past. Retrieved from

"Great Migration." (2010). Retrieved from

"Great Migration - The African American Exodus North." (2010). Author Interviews. Fresh Air Interview, NPR. Retreived from




Additional Resources on Historical Events

Harlem Renaissance

Getting Religion painting by Archibald John Motley

Motley, Archibald John, "Getting Religion." Painting. National Archives and Records Administration.

The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural, social, and creative movement that took place in Harlem, New York, from 1917 until 1937, when the Great Depression affected much of the country. The Harlem Renaissance, also known as “The New Negro Movement,” after scholar and critic Alain Locke’s anthology of the same name, was described by Locke in 1926 as “Negro life seizing its first chances for group expression and self-determination.” Many African-American writers, artists, and musicians fled their homes, many from the oppressive South, and migrated north to Harlem in order find creative freedom and expression by forging a new cultural identity. Some prominent names involved in this movement were Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Dubois, Josephine Baker, Count Basie, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Bessie Smith, Cab Calloway, Aaron Douglas, and Augusta Savage.

Oxford Art Online and RILM Encyclopedias have several excellent articles on the Harlem Renaissance, New Negro Movement, and the artists who impacted the movement. See the following (note: you'll need to access the items from Library Connect > Research Databases, using the Oxford login credentials) :

Leininger-Miller, T"Harlem Renaissance." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed Jan 6,

Smalls, J"New Negro Movement." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed Jan 6,

Warren, K. W."Harlem Renaissance." Encyclopedia of Aesthetics. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed Jan 6,

Other Events in African American History & Civil Rights Movement

Montgomery Bus Boycott

The Montgomery Bus Boycotts took place from December 5, 1955 to December 21, 1956 in Montgomery, Alabama. It is considered to be the first large-scale demonstration against segregation in the United States. In 1955, Montgomery city law required all African Americans to sit in the back half of the bus, as well as yielding their seats to white riders, should the front half become full. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was returning home from work, taking a seat in the first row of the African American section. The white section filled, causing the bus driver to ask Rosa and three others to get up. Parks refused and was then arrested and fined $10 plus an additional $4 for court fees. The Women’s Political Council began to circulate flyers calling for a boycott of the bus system on December 5th - approximately 40,000 African American bus riders boycotted that morning. Carpools were organized by black leaders, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and E.D. Nixon, and African American taxi drivers charged just 10 cents for African American riders. The boycotts lasted for 381 days, ending on December 21, 1956, after the Montgomery bus system was officially integrated and a federal court ruled the bus segregation violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. The Montgomery Bus Boycotts had a lasting effect on history; Martin Luther King Jr. emerged as a prominent figure and leader for African-Americans and Rosa Parks became a hero to many and remains one of the notable figures of the Civil Rights era.

The Full Sail Library databases hold numerous articles of interest related to the Montgomery bus boycotts and Rosa Parks. For additional information read some of these articles.

McGhee, F. (2015). The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Fall of the Montgomery City Lines. Alabama Review, 68(3), 251-268.

Sanders, V. (2006). Rosa Parks & the Montgomery Bus Boycott. History Review, (55), 3-8.

Statement on the 60th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. (2015). Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1.

Selma to Montgomery March

Known by many to be a milestone in the Civil Rights Movement, the Selma March to Montgomery took place from March 21st, 1965 to March 25th, 1965. After two previous attempts to march to the city of Montgomery, Alabama with one inciting such horrendous acts of violence from police against the protestors, it became known as “Bloody Sunday,” the third attempt brought the protestors to the steps of the State Capitol Building on March 25th. The march, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other Civil Rights activists, such as John Lewis and Reverend Hosea Williams, brought some 25,000 people in support of their cause. This cause focused on efforts to register black voters in the South. It was here that Dr. King would deliver one of his famous speeches, “How Long, Not Long” on the steps of the Capitol Building. The march garnered nationwide attention and support from other civil rights groups as well as the American people; its success organized for voter rights drives throughout black-majority areas in the South. The prominent event brought on, however, from the Selma march was the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Congress in August. This gave African-Americans the right to finally vote for the first time in history.

The Full Sail Library catalog and databases provide access to numerous articles and resources related to the Selma to Montgomery March. Here are a few items of interest.

Berman, A. (2013). John Lewis's Fight for Voting RightsNation296(26/27), 20-26.

Miller, S. (2015). MARCH MADNESSNewsweek Global164(9), 54-57.

Selma / directed by Ava Duvernay. Library call number: DVD DRAMA SEL