Happy Facial Hair Friday! This self portrait, with carefully groomed mustache in the center, is a glamorous photo of a hardworking, groundbreaking photographer.
James Stephen “Steve” Wright was from a working-class family in Washington, DC. By the 1940s he was head of photographic operations for the Federal Works Agency.
In an interview with Nicholas Natason, Wright recalled that “In those days, it was tough for a black man even to become a file clerk in the government … You had to mind your P’s and Q’s, because there were lower-level whites who resented the fact that you were doing photography at all and were waiting for you to stumble.”
But Wright was extremely good at his job; he was efficient, diplomatic and organized. In 1957, Wright was appointed as Photographic Branch Chief at the Department of State. He created State’s first central file on diplomatic personalities, events, and facilities.
Read the full story of Wright’s Federal career over on the Pieces of History blog.
Image: Steve Wright during his Federal Works Agency days. National Archives (208-NP-IY-1).
Frederick Douglass, February 1818 - February 20, 1895
Born into slavery in Maryland in 1818, Frederick Douglass went on to become a prominent abolitionist, author, orator and statesman.
Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879
From the Frank W. Legg Photographic Collection of Portraits of Nineteenth-Century Notables:
The Beginning of National Black History Month - 1976
What first began as Negro History Week in February 1926 expanded into a month-long celebration in 1976. President Gerald R. Ford issued this message recognizing National Black History Month on February 10, 1976.
-from the Ford Library
Check out our newest blog! “Rediscovering Black History: Updates from the National Archives” is now live.
This blog is a partner project to the work of National Archives staff who are updating Dr. Debra Newman Ham’s guide “Black History: A Guide to Civilian Records in the National Archives,” originally published in 1984.
The updated version of this award-winning black history guide will be more user friendly. It will also introduce non-traditional researchers to the valuable resources that the National Archives has to offer regarding the black experience.
Visit the blog at http://blogs.archives.gov/blackhistoryblog/
Image: Letter from Ida B. Wells to “Mrs. Dawes” ARC Identifier 578368. Ida B. Wells was among many individuals who wrote to the Department of Justice demanding Federal help to fight racial violence. Read the full story of this letter on the blog!
In 1926, historian Carter G. Woodson helped create “Negro History Week” during the second week of February, chosen because it coincided with Frederick Douglass’s birthday (February 7), as well as Abraham Lincoln’s (February 12).
In 1976, the Federal government expanded the week to “Black History Month.”
Check out our newest board on Pinterest: “Celebrating Black History Month.”
Rosa Parks, the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement” will be honored with a special document display and programs at the National Archives during the month of February:
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to yield her seat to a white passenger on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. This act inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by a young Martin Luther King, Jr., and began a movement that ended legal segregation in America.
Join us Monday, February 4, at noon for a special program celebrating her centennial year.
William S. Pretzer introduces the 2002 documentary Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks (40 mins.) Presented in partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The program is free! Enter through the “Special Events” extrance on Constitution Avenue. Doors open at 6:30. Take the Green/Yellow Metro lines to the “Archives” stop.
Image: Rosa Parks at the ceremony awarding her the Congressional Gold Medal, June 15, 1999. William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives
Members of the Nation’s first Negro Navigation Cadets, who will receive their commissions in the Army Air Forces on February 26th, visited City Hall as guests of Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia this afternoon. They are shown on the steps of City Hall as the mayor greeted their commanding officer, Maj. Galen B. Price. 02/16/1944
Tag It Tuesday! Tuskegee Airmen
"Pilots of a U.S. Army Air Forces fighter squadron, credited with shooting down 8 of the 28 German planes destroyed in dogfights over the new Allied beachheads south of Rome, on Jan. 27, talk over the day’s exploits at a U.S. base in the Mediterranean theater. Negro members of this squadron, veterans of the North African and Sicilian campaigns, were formerly classmates at a university in the southern U.S.", 02/1944
You’ve probably heard that “Red Tails,” a movie spotlighting the first African American military aviators, is now showing at a theater near you. Widely known as the Tuskegee Airmen, the pilots were part of the U.S. Army Air Corps’ 332nd Fighter and 477th Bombardment Groups. But you don’t have to go to the movies to learn more about their story! Just come to the National Archives!
Interested in the Tuskegee Airmen, the planes they flew, or the missions they were involved in? Then get tagging! »
James Meredith’s Letter to the Justice Department February 7, 1961
James Meredith’s letter to the Department of Justice concerning his attempts to gain admission to the University of Mississippi. Meredith would ultimately become the first African American student at the University in the fall of 1962, a turning point in the civil rights movement.
Letter from Sereno E. Payne, Chairman of the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, to George Ray, Chairman of the Committee on Invalid Pensions, on behalf of the claim of Harriet Tubman that she was employed as a nurse, cook, and a spy, 02/05/1898