Durham Tech’s Favorites for Black History Month

It’s nearing the end of Black History Month, so while our blog post topics may broaden, we’d like to leave you with some books by Black Americans that have made an impact on the Durham Tech community to read beyond just February because Black history is American history all year long.

Keep reading for Durham Tech’s favorite reads by Black American authors–fiction, nonfiction, poetry, art, environmental justice, social justice, criminal justice, economics, fantasy, and finance–, and for a documentary exploring if Black History Month accomplishes what it sets out to do.

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Contemporary Black Activists and Advocates

This week’s Black History Month post highlights contemporary activist and advocates and their works, but also highlights some folks closer to home.

North Carolina has a history of Black advocates and activists–in no particular chronological order–from Pauli Murray to Ann Atwater to James Shepard to Ella Baker to the Greensboro Four (Franklin McCain, Jibreel Khazan, Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond) to Nina Simone to the Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II.

Two time Durham university graduate (NC Central and Duke), Rev. Barber is a 2018 MacArthur Fellow (also known as the “Genius” grants), one of the revivers of The Poor People’s Campaign, a founder of Moral Mondays and its expansion project Repairers of the Breach, organizer, activist, and intersectional advocate.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II; Photo credit: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

“We must find a way to make clear today that the moral and constitutional crisis we face in America is not just about Republicans versus Democrats or liberal versus conservative. It is really instead about fundamental right against wrong, fundamental humanity, who we will write off and who we will include.”

from “Forward together, not one step back” [speech], UC Berkley, 19 April 2019.

Rev. Barber has published several books that are available through the Durham Tech Library.

Keep reading for more books by contemporary advocates and activists in the Durham Tech Library collections and for a link to tour Durham’s civil rights legacy in murals (and some multimedia).

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Black Wordsmiths: Black Musicians & Poets in the Durham Tech Library Collection

"BLK History Month" by Nikki Giovanni. If Black History Month is not viable then wind does not carry the seeds and drop them on fertile ground rain does not dampen the land and encourage the seeds to root sun does not warm the earth and kiss the seedlings and tell them plain: You’re As Good As Anybody Else You’ve Got A Place Here, Too

This week’s Black History Month post highlights Black creators in poetry and music, including pop, hip hop, rap, punk, and rock. This is only a small selection of our collection, so stop by and browse our digital collections from your own computer or stop in and browse our shelves.

Updated 2/15/2023: Want some poetry bookmarks? Go to the end of the post!

Interested in learning how to make your own music using only a laptop? Check out this awesome event through the Wake County Public Libraries featuring Durham’s Pierce Freelon. Registration is requested and is free.

Hip Hop Beat Making with Pierce Freelon, Saturday, February 25 from 4:00-5:00 PM at the Oberlin Regional Library (1930 Clark Ave, Raleigh, NC 27605). Registration is requested and free.

Explore music production and entrepreneurship by learning how to compose, sample, and write a song using only a laptop with Grammy-nominated musician and co-creator of PBS’s Beat Making Lab.

Be sure to check out the other Black History Month events through the Wake County Public Library’s “Celebrating Black Brilliance” series.

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Black History is American History

This week for Black History Month, we’re highlighting the actual history of the month itself and resources available to work towards Dr. Woodson’s goals when he envisioned a month highlighting Black contributions to American history.

“Black History Is Our History: Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Also Known As The ‘Father Of Black History Month” by CBS New York (YouTube)

Dr. Carter G. Woodson is the “father of Black History Month.” Starting as a week in February in 1926 (selected as the same month as the birthday of Abraham Lincoln and the chosen birthday of Frederick Douglass) and expanded to a month by presidential decree in 1976, Woodson insisted that Black History Week should be used to “emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history,” since “one cannot understand the foundation of American government, tax structure, or changing legislative developments without understanding slavery, its economic implications, and heavy influence on political party identity.”

Hayti Heritage Center sign with St. Joseph's UME in the background

Locally, the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham was recently highlighted in a New York Times article highlighting important African American landmarks that highlight important aspects of Black history. Check it out here: “8 Places Across the U.S. That Illuminate Black History” (online) or through our ProQuest Central database (login using your Durham Tech username and password).

Keep reading to see books and resources available through the Durham Tech Library highlighting Black people in American history, some well-know and some lesser known.

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Black Art and Artists

February is African American History Month, a time to focus with intention on Black Americans and their history, highlighting contributions that have frequently been unspoken or underscored by others who dominated the historical narrative.

Homecoming by Ernie Barnes, a painting of NCCU's band marching at the intersection at Roxboro Road & Pettigrew Streets in Durham
Homecoming by Durham-born-and-raised artist Ernie Barnes

This week we’re focusing on Black artists and some of the resources available to you through the Durham Tech Library’s collections to highlight Black history and accomplishments. Keep reading for books, streaming video, and some options to go see Black art up close (and for free).

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E-Books and Audiobooks for Black History Month

Having a hard time choosing what books to read during Black History Month? We’ve got your back!

Black History Month books. Featuring Will, A Promised Land, The 1619 Project, and Caste.

We created a Black History Month collection in our Dogwood Digital Library for you to browse through. We have new and popular titles like Will by Will Smith, The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones, and The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee. Use your Durham Tech username and password to log in and check out books!

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Celebrate Black History Month With These 9 Streaming Documentaries

We don’t like to boast around here, but with the arrival of Black History Month, we want to shout from the rooftops about Durham Tech Libraries’ robust collection of documentary films about famous Black activists, artists, athletes.

Have you seen a movie about New York slam poets?

How about a survey of the history of Black Feminism?

Click “Continue Reading” to see what films we’re talking about!

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What We’re Reading Online for Black History Month

Dogwood Digital Library

The Durham Tech Library is a member of the Dogwood Digital Library, a collection of online ebooks and audiobooks through the Overdrive/Libby app. Durham Tech faculty, staff, and students can check out books using their Durham Tech username and password, just like they can access databases off-campus. Ebooks and audiobooks check out for 21 days and can be read on your phone, tablet, or computer. 

Check out some of our staff recommendations that celebrate Black authors and experiences for Black History Month. 

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Celebrate Black History Month with Streaming Films

We are highlighting three important films from our Library’s streaming video collections.  Simply log in with your Durham Tech username and password to watch the films or clips from the films. A transcript and closed captioning are provided for each film.

February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four film cover, showing the backs of 4 men sitting at the counter of a lunch counter

Do you know the history of the Greensboro Four?  You can watch the documentary film, February One, to learn about the four NC A&T University students who sat down at a lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. in 1960 as part of the civil rights movement. 

John Lewis 'Good Trouble' documentary film cover showing a drawing of the mugshot a young John Lewis, slightly smiling

John Lewis: Good Trouble is an inspirational new film that shares the life and legacy of legendary U.S. Representative John Lewis and his 60 years of  activism for civil rights. 

Fannie Lou Hamer speaking into a handheld microphone and surrounded by people

Learn more about Mississippi civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer and her work for voting rights and women’s rights in the 1960’s, in the film The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer: Never Turn Back.  

To discover additional streaming films, explore Films on Demand and AVON: Academic Video Online.

Black History Month

Black and white photographs of famous African Americans. Text says, "Celebrate Black History Month with a biography! African American Biographies."

The library has lots of inspiring biographies of African Americans.  Check out our display on the lower level to learn some of these stories:

African American Entrepreneurs

African American Women Scientists and Inventors

American Tapestry : The story of the black, white, and multiracial ancestors of Michelle Obama

The Autobiography of Medgar Evers

Hand in Hand: Ten Black men who changed America

Ida: A sword among lions,  Ida B. Wells and the campaign against lynching

The Life of Sojourner Truth: “Ain’t I a woman?” (DVD and book)

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

You can also explore the online catalog for additional resources.

Two young African American males and the movie title "American Promise" Subtitle says, "A documentary 13 years in the making, American Promise provides a rare look into the lives of two middle class black families as they navigate the ups and downs of parenting and educating their sons."

The Debate Team and Vive/Viva the Arts are showing six screenings of the documentary film American Promise about America’s struggle with issues of race, class, and opportunity.  If you can’t make it to a screening on campus, the film is for streaming here for free until March 6th.  The library will also have copies available for checkout after the screenings as well.

The library also has resources related to education and the achievement gap on display this month:

The Black-White Achievement Gap : Why closing it is the greatest civil rights issue of our time

Changing School Culture for Black Males

Reducing the Black Male Dropout Rate

Unfinished Business : Closing the racial achievement gap in our schools

Young, Gifted, and Black : Promoting high achievement among African-American students