Professor Matthew Delmont decided a few years ago that he wanted to change how he teaches African American history.
Delmont teaches at Dartmouth College in the state of New Hampshire.
At first, Delmont turned to Twitter. There, he shared stories of the everyday lives of African Americans he read about in black newspapers.
That project expanded in November to become the website Black Quotidian. There, readers will find life stories of hundreds of African Americans taken from black newspapers. The stories appeared in publications between the early 1900s and the 1980s.
The website contains copies of stories from more than 10 black newspapers, such as the Chicago Defender and the Pittsburgh Courier. It also has audio recordings, pictures and videos.
“l felt like my students were coming away from the class only thinking African American history was about these civil right(s) marches or about martyrs,” Delmont said.
“I felt like they spent so much time thinking about black death that they were losing sight of the broader complexity, really the beautiful aspects of African American history.”
The website shows African Americans who made their mark in sports, politics, the military and other areas. Among them are icons like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights activist Rosa Parks. But Delmont also aims to bring attention to lesser known people.
One of them is Juanita Blocker. She was the first black member of the Professional Women’s Bowling Association. She wrote about bowling in the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper for 20 years.
The website also tells about Claudette Colvin of Montgomery, Alabama. As a 15-year-old, she refused to give up her seat on a bus – nine months before Rosa Parks did the same.
Delmont said, “These iconic figures are important but we need to understand the everyday people doing important things in their community.” He added that he has observed a growing interest in rediscovering overlooked African Americans.
Delmont said he hopes the website brings attention to black newspapers. He said the publications were especially important for African American communities that had recently migrated north. The newspapers described people’s daily lives. They provided news of everything from politics to sports to weddings.
Ethan Michaeli worked for the Chicago Defender and wrote a book about the newspaper. He said Delmont’s website is offering a fresh look at the role these newspapers played in black communities. Many of the papers included on the website have closed or no longer print newspapers.
Michaeli said, “I’m very excited about it as kind of serving as the bridge between the past and the present in this way.”
I’m Ashley Thompson.
The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
martyr - n. a person who is killed or who suffers greatly for a religion, cause, etc.
broad - adj. including or involving many things or people
aspect - n. a part of something
icon - n. a person who is very successful and admired
bowling - n. a game played by rolling a large, heavy ball down a smooth floor (called a lane) towards a set of pins in order to knock down as many pins as possible
figure - n. a person who has a specified status or who is regarded in a specified way
role - n. a part that someone or something has in a particular activity or situation
print - n. to cause (words, images, etc.) to appear on paper or cloth by using a machine (called a printer)