Black History Is American History

Black History Is American History honors the range of black voices in American history by taking a deeper look at their unique contributions to our society and our world. Hosted by William Matthews, Propaganda, Andre Henry, & Nikki Blak, this podcast explores the lives of prominent black heroes, icons, and titans.

1. Harriet Tubman

February 1st, 2020

As an American activist, abolitionist, and the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, she rescued around 70 people from slavery. Let’s talk about Harriet Tubman.

2. Frederick Douglass

February 2nd, 2020

An American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings. Let’s talk about Frederick Douglass.

3. Sojourner Truth

February 3rd, 2020

An American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. Let’s talk about Sojourner Truth.

4. American Civil War

February 4th, 2020

The American Civil War took place from 1861 to 1865 and was the deadliest war in American history. The ware was fought between the northern United States which was loyal to the Union and the southern United States which seceded from the Union to form The Confederate States of America. The war began primarily because of a long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people. Let’s talk about The American Civil War.

5. Reconstruction

February 5th, 2020

The Reconstruction era lasted from 1865 to 1877 following The American Civil War. It represents the failed transformation of the eleven former states of The Confederate States of America. Three new constitutional amendments ostensibly guaranteed newly freed slaves citizenship with civil rights while aiming to end the remnants of Confederate secession. However, three visions of the war appeared: the reconciliationist vision, the white supremacist vision, and the emancipationist vision. Let’s talk about Reconstruction.

6. The Tuskegee Airmen

February 6th, 2020

A group of African-American military fighters and bomber pilots who fought in World War II. They formed the 332nd fighter group and 447th bombardment group of the United States Army Air Forces. Their sacrifice was often met with very little support when they came home as they were still subject to disrespect and Jim Crow laws across the United States. Let’s talk about The Tuskegee Airmen.

7. Black Inventors

February 7th, 2020

From George Washington Carver to Dr. Shirley Jackson, from the pyramids to rock & roll, from rockets to the moon to home security systems, black inventors have discovered and created new ways to do things all throughout history. Culture can sometimes relegate these highly intelligent people to the footnotes of history, but we would be remiss not to celebrate these giants whose shoulders we stand on. Let’s talk about black inventors. 

8. Marcus Garvey

February 8th, 2020

A political activist, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator. Born in 1887. He is seen as a national hero in Jamaica, and his ideas exerted a considerable influence on such movements as Rastafari, the Nation of Islam, and the Black Power Movement. His work spoke specifically to the belief that African-Americans needed to secure financial independence from white-dominant society. Let’s talk about Marcus Garvey.

9. Ida B. Wells

February 9th, 2020

An African-American investigative journalist, educator, and an early leader in the civil rights movement. Born in 1862, she was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In the 1890s, she documented lynching in the United States through her indictment called “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all its Phases.” Let’s talk about Ida B. Wells.

9. Ida B. Wells

February 9th, 2020

An African-American investigative journalist, educator, and an early leader in the civil rights movement. Born in 1862, she was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In the 1890s, she documented lynching in the United States through her indictment called “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all its Phases.” Let’s talk about Ida B. Wells.

10. Madam C.J. Walker

February 10th, 2020

An entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political activist. She created a line of cosmetics and hair care products for black women. She was the wealthiest African-American businesswoman and wealthiest self-made woman at the time of her death in 1919. Her lavish estate, Villa Lewaro, in Irvington-on-Hudson New York was a major social gathering place for the African-American community. Let’s talk about Madam C.J. Walker.

11. Jackie Robison

February 11th, 2020

An American professional baseball player who became the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era. He played in six World Series and contributed to the Dodgers 1955 World Series championship. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, and in 1997 his number, 42, was retired across all major league baseball teams. Let’s talk about Jackie Robinson.

12. Zora Neale Hurston

February 12th, 2020

An American author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. Her most popular novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” was published in 1937. She also wrote other novels and more than 50 short stories, plays, and essays. Her work concerned the African-American experience, racial struggles in the early 20th century, and her own viewpoint as an African-American woman. In 1975, Alice Walker published an article in the March issue of Miss Magazine which revitalized interest in Hurston’s work. Let’s talk about Zora Neale Hurston.

13. Emmett Till & Jim Crow

February 13th, 2020

In 1955, at only 14 years old, Emmett Till was abducted and lynched by two white men. Till was accused of offending Carolyn Bryant, a white woman, in her family’s grocery store. Regardless, in September 1955 an all-white jury found the killers not guilty of Till’s kidnapping and murder. A few months after the trial, the two killers spoke publicly with Look Magazine and admitted they had murdered Till. Later in 2008, Bryant admitted that she lied about important details of her testimony. Emmett Till’s lynching was a catalyst for the civil rights movement and its impact reverberates forward to today. Let’s talk about Emmett Till and Jim Crow.

14. Rosa Parks

February 14th, 2020

An American activist in the civil rights movement best known for her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. On December 1, 1955, she rejected an order to relinquish her seat in the colored section of a bus to a white passenger after the “whites only” section was full. Her act of defiance became an important symbol of the civil rights movement. Although widely honored for her act, she also was fired from her job and received death threats for years afterwards. Let’s talk about Rosa Parks.

15. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

February 15th, 2020

An American, Christian minister and activist. He became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. King is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, inspired by his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi. J. Edgar Hoover considered King a radical and made him an object of the FBI’s counter intelligence program. In October 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combatting racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. He helped organize many public marches and protests including the March on Washington and the Selma to Montgomery marches. Let’s talk about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

16. Thurgood Marshall

February 16th, 2020

An American lawyer who served as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1967 until 1991. He was the Supreme Court’s first African-American justice. Before joining the court, Marshall successfully argued several cases before the Supreme Court including Brown v. Board of Education. In 1987, Marshall gave a controversial speech stating “The government [the Founding Fathers] devised was defective from the start. Requiring several amendments, a civil war, and major social transformations to attain the system of Constitutional government and its respect for the freedoms and individual rights we hold as fundamental today…” Let’s talk about Thurgood Marshall.

17. Malcolm X

February 17th, 2020

An American, Muslim minister and human rights activist. Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska in 1925. He was sent to prison for 10 years in 1946 for larceny and breaking and entering. In prison, he joined the Nation of Islam and adopted the name “Malcolm X” because “Little” was the name of the white slave master. After being paroled, he became one of the most influential leaders in the Nation of Islam. He advocated black empowerment, the separation of black and white Americans, and rejected the civil rights movement for its emphasis racial integration. Later in his life, he regretted some of his work with the Nation of Islam and after a personal hajj — an islamic pilgrimage — began to advocate racial integration. He was assassinated in 1965 by three members of the Nation of Islam. Let’s talk about Malcolm X.

18. Sidney Poitier

February 18th, 2020

An American actor, famous for his roles throughout the 50s and 60s. In 1958, he received the nomination for best actor for his role in “The Defiant Ones” which was the first time a black actor had received such a nomination. In 1964, he won the Academy Award and the Golden Globe for best actor for his role in “Lillies of the Field.” In 1967 he performed in several break out films like “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “In the Heat of the Night,” and “To Sir, with Love.” In 1974, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth and in 2009 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Let’s talk about Sidney Poitier.

19. James Baldwin

February 19th, 2020

An American novelist, playwright, and activist. His essays explore intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in western societies. He frequently appeared on television and delivered speeches on college campuses. His church experience significantly shaped his worldview and his writing. He accused American Christianity of reinforcing the system of American slavery by lessening the pains of oppression and delaying salvation until a promised afterlife. Let’s talk about James Baldwin.

20. Maya Angelou

February 20th, 2020

An American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights advocate. She published seven autobiographies, many books of essays, many books of poetry, and is credited with plays, movies, and television shows. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. In 1969, her first autobiography “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” brought her into national recognition. She worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Let’s talk about Maya Angelou.

21. Fred Hampton & The Black Panthers

February 21st, 2020

An American activist and revolutionary socialist. He rose quickly in the Black Panthers based on his organizing skills, substantial oratorical gifts, and personal charisma. He took chairmanship of the Illinois state Black Panther Party after the party split. Because of his strong leadership, in 1967 the FBI identified him as a radical threat and began to subvert his activities in Chicago. In December of 1969, he was shot and killed in his bed during a pre-dawn raid of his apartment by Cook County State Attorney’s office in conjunction with the the Chicago Police Department and the FBI. At the time, the homicide was considered justified, but in 1982, a settlement of $1.85 million was paid to 9 plaintiffs after a civil lawsuit was brought against the three law enforcement organizations responsible for his death. Scholars now widely consider Hampton’s death an assassination initiated under the FBI. Let’s talk about Fred Hampton & The Black Panthers.

22. James Cone

February 22nd, 2020

An American theologian. Best known for his black theology and black liberation theology. His 1969 book Black Theology and Black Power provided a new way to comprehensively define the distinctiveness of theology in the black church. His message was that black power — defined as black people asserting the humanity that white supremacy denied — was the gospel in America. He argued that Jesus came to liberate the oppressed, and that white, American churches preached the gospel according to white supremacy. Let’s talk about James Cone.

23. Muhammad Ali

February 23rd, 2020

An African-American professional boxer, activist, and philanthropist. Born as Cassius Marcellus Clay, he changed his name in the early sixties after converting to Islam. He won the world heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston at a major upset in 1964 at age 22. He later refused to be drafted into the military during the Vietnam War, and was then arrested, found guilty of draft evasion, and stripped of his boxing titles. The ruling was later overruled during an appeal to the Supreme Court. His actions as a conscientious objector to the war made him an icon for the larger counter culture generation and the civil rights movement. Sports Illustrated has called him the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time and the greatest athlete of the 20th century. He also received two Grammy nominations. Let’s talk about Muhammad Ali.

24. Audre Lorde

February 24th, 2020

An American writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist. As a poet, she is best known for technical mastery and emotional expression, as well as her poems that express anger and outrage at civil and social injustices she observed throughout her life. Her poems, and prose largely deal with civil rights, feminism, lesbianism, illness, disability, and the exploration of black female identity. Let’s talk about Audre Lorde.

25. Angela Davis

February 25th, 2020

An American political activist, philosopher, academic, and author. Ideologically a Marxist, she was a member of Communist Party USA until 1991 after which she joined the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. She is the author of over 10 books on class, feminism, and the US prison system. She involved herself in a range of leftist causes, including the second-wave feminist movement, the Black Panther Party, and the campaign against the Vietnam War. In 1991, she joined the feminist studies department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she became department director before retiring in 2008. Since then she has continued to write and remained active in movements such as Occupy and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. Praised by many Marxists and others on the far left, Davis has received various awards, including the Lenin Peace Prize. She has also sustained criticism for her support for political violence and her refusal to advocate for prisoners in Marxist-Leninist countries. Let’s talk about Angela Davis.

26. Bryan Stevenson

February 26th, 2020

An American lawyer, social justice activist, founder/executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and a clinical professor at New York University School of Law. Based in Montgomery, Alabama, he has challenged bias against the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system, especially children. He has argued multiple cases in front of the Supreme Court and helped achieve decisions that prohibit sentencing children under 18 to death or to life imprisonment without parole. Stevenson has assisted in cases that have saved dozens of prisoners from the death penalty, advocated for the poor, and developed community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice. He initiated the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, which honors the names of each of the more than 4,000 African Americans lynched in the 12 states of the South from 1877 to 1950. He argues that the history of slavery and lynchings has influenced the subsequent high rate of death sentences in the South, where it has been disproportionately applied to minorities. Let’s talk about Bryan Stevenson.

27. Black Feminism & Womanism

February 27th, 2020

Womanism doesn’t position itself in relation to masculinity, whereas black feminism and feminism specifically seek to elevate women to the status of men socially, politically, and economically; and also overcome patriarchy, sexism, and oppression. Black feminism asserts that the experience of black women places them in a unique position as they relate to patriarchy, sexism, and oppression. There is a distinct focus on class, gender expression, and sexual orientation as it relates to the distribution of power socially, politically, and economically. Womanism has been called “women loving other women.” It doesn’t position itself with masculinity which is a specific contrast with feminism. Let’s talk about Womanism & Black Feminism.

28. Interviews with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. & Malcolm X

February 28th, 2020

In this episode, we focus on the words of two men who early on had two very different opinions, but at the end of their lives they were much closer together — closer than you may think. These two men were Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Pay attention and hear the nuance in their words. Envision yourself transported back to the 1960’s and be mindful to really hear their perspectives. Let’s listen to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

29. On Art & Poetry with James Baldwin & Maya Angelou

February 29th, 2020

In this episode, we highlight two poets: James Baldwin and Maya Angelou. Both were best selling authors and world-renown poets. We highlight their words as they relate to art, the creative process, and the moral responsibility the artist carries to humanity and society. James Baldwin wrestles with that tension in his speech at the University of Chicago in 1963. Maya Angelou discusses her love for humanity and performs her poem “Still I Rise.” Let’s listen to James Baldwin and Maya Angelou.