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A Remarka-Bull Heritage Month: Black History Resources & Collections

Though the concept of celebrating and highlighting the work of Black Americans has been an idea since 1926, originally dubbed “Negro History week” by Carter G. Woodson and celebrated during the second week of February, in 1976 President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month. Ford urged the public to, “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” In keeping with that tradition, as information science students, here is a list of some of the amazing resources and collections the USF Library offers that center on Black histories and stories!

The African American Experience (AAE) in Florida Collection

Begun in 2020 and sparked by the death of George Floyd, USF’s Dean of Libraries Todd Chavez asked how USF could contribute to the battle against systemic racism and thus, this resource was born. The AAE portal highlights a span of documents, interviews, and narratives of the lives and experiences of Black Floridians, some as early as accounts of formerly enslaved people, to as recent as coverage of Black Lives Matter protests. In addition to resources that cover racism and its effects on the population of Florida, the collection also houses general accounts of daily living, and is an invaluable resource for any local history buffs. I highly recommend looking through what is stored in the Arts section, as it houses works from composers like W. C. Handy, the “Father of Blues,” and papers and books from Jacqueline Woodson, author of many Sunshine State books, 4 time Newberry Award winner, and recipient of the ALA’s 2018 Children’s Literature Legacy award.

Concerned Organization for Quality Education for Black Students, Inc. (COQEBS)

The USF St. Petersburg Library houses the background documents for COQEBS in its online collection. Following the final class action settlement agreement in 2010, the Pinellas County Circuit Court approved the right of this group of individuals and organizations to ensure that the Pinellas County School Board fulfils its oath of providing equitable, quality education for Black students in Pinellas County. Included within these documents are submissions from 1991 about the desegregation of Pinellas County schools, and reports on progress of the school board’s educational commitment from 2014 onward.

The International Journal of Africana Studies: The Journal of the National Council for Black Studies, Inc.

The issues of the International Journal of Africana Studies that are collected online cover a broad range of topics and span issues from 1999 to 2010. Articles written cover underground rap movements, the evolution of welfare rights in Boston, echoes of racism and oppression in how light-skinned Black people are treated and valued, and even commentary on the nonverbal communication practices among people of African descent. The wealth of information contained within these journals cannot be understated, and this can give students a glimpse of not only the experiences of Black Americans, but Black citizens of the UK, and present-day Africans as well.

You can also celebrate Black History Month by making a conscious effort to read Black authors, though this is something I recommend all year round as well. Here is the press release from the Black Caucus American Library Association Book Award winners from 2023, including their first Novelist Award winner Black Cake: a Novel by Charmaine Wilkerson. In addition, ALA has published the list of 2023 Coretta Scott King Book Award winners and honors, which bridge a wide range of topics and age ranges, from picture books to YA graphic novels. Below are some personal suggestions of books I read and enjoyed this year written by Black authors.

There Was a Party for Langston by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Jermone & Jarrett Pumphrey

Jason Reynold’s debut picture book was inspired by a picture of Amiri Baraka and Maya Angelou dancing at a party for Langston Hughes in the Schomburg Library in Harlem. Langston’s ashes are buried there and were interred in 1991 on what would have been the poets 89th birthday. The book uses onomatopoeic language to give rhythm to the text, and quotes from some of Langston’s poems are incorporated through the illustrations. 

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes 

This middle grade novel explores themes of police brutality, both in the present and in the past. The ghost of Emmett Till makes an appearance to guide 12-year-old Jerome after he is killed by a police officer mistaking his toy gun for a real threat. Jerome also comes in contact with Sarah, the daughter of the police officer who killed him, as she struggles to understand what happened that night and how much blame her father carries.

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

From the author of The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas explores the class divide and the roots of rap and hip-hop. Bri, the daughter of an underground rap legend who died prematurely, wants to make it big like her father never had the chance to. However, after her mother loses her job and the threat of homelessness stares down the family, the pressure to make It looms ever larger.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

A sci-fi apocalyptic read, where people are oppressed for their ability to control elemental magic while the world shakes apart during a giant earthquake. N. K. Jemisin is a three-time Hugo award winner for science-fiction, all three awards were won by her The Broken Earth triology. The Fifth Season is the first of that trilogy and will leave you wanting more after every plot twist.

We Carry Their Bones: The Search for Justice at the Dozier School for Boys by Erin Kimmerle

A professor of forensic anthropology at USF, Erin Kimmerle’s book explains the horrible truths found at the Dozier School for Boys site, which was shut down in 2011 after a century of rumors of abuse, cruelty, and “mysterious” deaths surrounded the school. Kimmerle narrates the experience of searching for unmarked graves on the grounds and how locals tried to shut her down in order to keep the reputation of the school intact. If you have any interest in forensic anthropology, or want to have a better understanding of how racial injustices can happen right in front of “well-intentioned” people and still nothing is done, this is an interesting and enlightening read.
*Kimmerle is a non-POC author, writing as an expert in forensic anthropology.

Whether you enjoy fact, fiction, or a mix of the two, I hope this Black History month you find something new - something that sparks your drive to dig deeper and learn more. Happy Black History Month Bulls!

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