February is Black History Month, the perfect time to log on to the web with your children to visit some of the many sites honoring Americans of African descent.
The Afro American Almanac is an excellent place to begin your journey. Here you will find biographies of great African American men and women , and you can pour through the site's collection of fascinating historical documents. For example, do your children know that Thomas Jefferson's original draft of the Declaration of Independence contained language condemning King George III's indulgence of the Slave Trade. You can read his omitted text here, along with other important historical documents. Another feature of the Afro American Almanac is a selection of folk tales, where you can read stories like "Why There Is Day and Night," "Why Women Do Not Have Beards,"and "Why the Sun Lives in the Sky."
The Afro American History site is full of enlightening entries on a wide range of subjects, from a profile of the director, Oscar Miceaux, who was the first African American to produce a feature-length film; to the Menare Foundation's North Star website which is committed to documenting, preserving, and restoring the Underground Railroad safe houses; to a history of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Company that fought with such distinction in the Civil War.
Finally, visit the Encyclopedia Britannica Guide to Black History, a comprehensive and a visually stunning site, where you'll find audio and video clips of famous African Americans from this century, including Jesse Owens, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King delivering his famous "I Have a Dream Speech." And don't miss the late Gwendolyn Brooks reading one of her poems. The site provides an engrossing time line of African American history in America that begins in 1517, with the early Spanish colonies. Along this hard, hard road to the present for African Americans, you'll meet such inspiring figures as Lucy Terry, the orator and writer, who composed "the earliest existing poem by an African American." Her verses were preserved by the oral tradition for over a century until they were finally published. There is a very useful study guide , and a fine section on the Harlem Renaissance, which describes those extraordinary figures of literature, art and entertainment who sprang out of 1920s New York City at the height of the Jazz Age. And for its encore, this site links you to dozens of other places on the internet, where you can continue this important journey, on which you'll be moved and outraged, amazed and inspired.
Copyright © 2001 by John Cech
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