Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Frederick Douglass' Letter to Lewis Latimer
Frederick Douglass' Letter to Lewis Latimer. Courtesy of Lewis H. Latimer House Museum.

Museums and libraries have strong roles in providing educational opportunities for their communities. Many of these institutions have been able to share their impact beyond the local community by creating and expanding online digital collections. Through in-person and virtual learning, museums and libraries are inviting life-long learners to experience the people, cultures, and events that have shaped this country.

In observance of Black History Month, here are a collection of libraries and museums across the U.S. using Museum Grants for African American History and Culture funding to develop new ways to educate, raise awareness, and promote Black history, culture, knowledge, and civil rights year-round.

Ferris State University's Jim Crow Museum used IMLS funding to create a robust online curriculum to help schools, museums, libraries, and other educational organizations teach tolerance and promote social justice through the lens of the African American experience in the United States since Reconstruction. The museum curriculum empowers teachers to help their students have productive conversations about the history of racism in the U.S. The museum also includes a virtual tour of current exhibits.

The Robbins House is focused on raising awareness of Concord’s African, African American, and antislavery history from the 17th through the 19th centuries. The museum used IMLS funding to create interpretive materials to support the theme of the Long Civil Rights Movement (LCRM), from slavery to today. The LCRM is the focus of research to interpret the Robbins House based on the lives, communities and context of the Robbins' family migration across generations and geography.

The Lewis H. Latimer House Museum preserves the life and achievements of Lewis Howard Latimer, an African American inventor, electrical pioneer, and a son of fugitive slaves. The museum is continuing to expand its school programming in response to a need for affordable educational resources in Queens and nearby boroughs in New York City, while building its capacity to conduct public cultural programs for adult audiences. The museum is working to build broad partnerships as it helps to strengthen the appreciation of African American history and culture in the region.

The New York Public Library's Schomburg Center is developing ready-to-use lesson plans centered around the themes of the Black Power Movement, the transatlantic slave trade, and black women's stories. This provides an accessible way for teachers to use collection materials in their classrooms. These lessons will be offered for free online alongside the many other digital collections currently available.

Restored Harper book
Restored Harper book courtesy of Temple University.

The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University conserved four rare books identified as critically important for interpretation of its collection. Two of the books are examples of published works that perpetuated stereotypical representations of African Americans: The Story of Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman and Black Samson: A Narrative of Old Kentucky by Samuel Fletcher. The other two books are works by African American authors Frances E.W. Harper and Charles Spurgeon Johnson. A facsimile will be made of Black Samson to minimize handling of the very fragile original while continuing to ensure access to its content.

Restored Harper book interior
Restored Harper book courtesy of Temple University.

These museums and libraries and many more are searching out ways to serve their communities and help bring people together. For more information on Museum Grants for African American History and Culture, visit the IMLS website.

Museum Grants for African American History and Culture