February: African American History Month
Each year since 1996, the President of the United States has proclaimed February to be African American History Month. Its origins, however, go back to the 1920s when Dr. Carter Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” We’ve assembled a collection of Lit2Go audiobooks and speeches around the theme of Black life in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for use during February—or better yet—throughout the year.
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My Bondage and My Freedom is an autobiographical slave narrative written by Frederick Douglass and published in 1855. It is the second of three autobiographies written by Douglass, and is mainly an expansion of his first (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass), discussing in greater detail his transition from bondage to liberty. Douglass, a former slave, following his liberation went on to become a prominent abolitionist, speaker, author, and publisher. Available from the Lit2Go website. Reading level: 10.1. Word count: 135,256.
Behind the Scenes Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House is an autobiographical narrative by Elizabeth Keckley. In it she tells the story of her life as a slave and her time as a seamstress for Mrs. Lincoln in the White House. From the Lit2Go audiobook collection. Reading level: 7.4. Word count: 60,930.
The Colored Cadet at West Point is an autobiographical novel detailing the events leading up to Henry O. Flipper’s groundbreaking appointment to the West Point Military Academy, and his active service in the U.S. Army that followed graduation. From the Lit2Go website. Reading level: 10.1. Word count: 94,992.
James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man is a fictional, tragic tale about a young mulatto’s coming-of-age in the early 20th century. The unnamed narrator, who has a black mother and white father, is light-skinned enough to pass for a white man but his emotional connections to his mother’s heritage make him unable to fully embrace that world. Available from the Lit2Go audiobook collection. Reading level: 9.0. Word count: 53,408.
The Souls of Black Folk is a classic work of African–American literature by activist W.E.B. Du Bois. The book, published in 1903, contains several essays on race, some of which had been previously published in Atlantic Monthly magazine. Du Bois drew from his own experiences to develop this groundbreaking work on being African–American in American society. Outside of its notable place in African–American history, The Souls of Black Folk also holds an important place in social science as one of the early works to deal with sociology. From the Lit2Go audiobook collection. Reading level: 10.2. Word count: 72,105.