Black History Month: Untold Stories

When President Gerald Ford addressed the nation during America’s bicentennial, he made time to acknowledge the recently instated remembrance of Black History Month, telling Americans to, “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

During Black History Month, we’re working to acknowledge some of those often neglected stories by taking a look through our catalog and highlighting some of these often forgotten stories.

A Free Man of Color and His Hotel (Potomac Books, 2012) tells one such story, focusing on James Wormley and the building and operating of the famous Wormley Hotel in Washington DC. Wormley’s story is one of success in Reconstruction-era America but it’s also one that’s framed by major Supreme Court decisions that severely limited social progress in the era.

While the Tuskegee Airmen are one of the most prominent and iconic images of African Americans in aviation, they were hardly the first. Blue Skies, Black Wings (Bison Books, 2008) recounts the stores of the first African Americans to fly, highlighting the black airmen of World War I as well as Charles Wesley Peters, who owned and flew his own plane in 1911.

When Harriet Lee Elam-Thomas was first at her post in the Department of the State in 1971, she was regularly referred to as the “little Elam Girl.” In Diversifying Diplomacy (Potomac Books, 2017), Elam-Thomas tells the story of her 42 years of diplomatic service in her own words, focusing on her efforts to make America’s diplomatic face more representative of the diverse people the country is made up of.

In 2019, we will continue to highlight oft-neglected stories by focusing on the storytellers themselves. In Looking at the Stars: Black Celebrity Journalism in Jim Crow America (June 2019) focuses on how black celebrities were covered in press written by and for black urban professionals in the early 20th Century. The book illuminates the way iconic celebrities were discussed not as matinee idols but as symbols of the changing times and as political activists.

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