28 Days of Black History

Readers, please note: This is an ongoing project and will be changing hopefully daily.

Every February, we celebrate Black History Month with local, state, and national events. This year, we are expanding our vision with Black History activities that can be part of an ongoing educational effort.

Our 28 Days of Black History can be books to read, films or videos to watch, podcasts to listen to, news or magazine articles or projects to read. This list can be a project map for anyone seeking to expand their knowledge or increase their understanding.

Are we missing something important? No worries, we can add it. Please contribute by emailing your suggestion to us. Please include a description, a link (if it’s online), and your name and contact information (in case we need to contact you for information). We will list you as a contributor unless you request your name be withheld.

1. Here’s a project to start the month: Start reading the New York Times encyclopedic project on slavery. The 1619 project includes articles, videos, podcasts from many sources as it charts the racial history of the US. There is a lot encased in this project and many related articles, videos and links that you can take down different paths. So, when we say “start”, we mean this is a journey. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html.

2. Join a virtual, moderated discussion on Tuesday, Feb. 2, sponsored by National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian, bringing together authors Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, and Keisha N. Blain, author of Set the World on Fire. They’ll discuss their project – Four Hundred Souls – which involves 90 writers each exploring a five-year period of the Black experience from slavery to the present through essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and more. Event is free; registration required.

3. Watch Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th, about racial inequality and the incarceration of African-Americans. The documentary is now free for non-subscribers to watch on Netflix. Combining archival footage with testimony from activists and scholars, the film is an examination of the U.S. prison system and looks at how the country’s history of racial inequality drives the high rate of incarceration in America.

4. “The Secret Game” by Scott Ellsworth. This is the story of the first integrated basketball game in the South which took place in 1944. It is also the story of John Mclendon who would become the first Black man to coach a professional team in the United States. Follow up with this Chicago Tribune interview with the author.

5.  Listen to Maya Angelou deliver an animated reading of her quintessential poem “Still I Rise.” Angelou got her start in the public eye as a Calypso dancer and singer, even appearing in a film, Calypso Heat Wave and releasing an album, Miss Calypso, both in 1957. It’s said that Billie Holiday told Angelou in 1958, “you’re going to be famous but it won’t be for singing,” Angelou retained the air of a performer as a reader of her work.

Also this week:

Visit the fifth annual African American History Month art exhibition is on display all month long at the Greenville Technical College library through the end of February. The exhibit, free to peruse, includes the work of many African American artists, including South Carolina native and award-winning artist John Pendarvis. The work of current and former Greenville Tech students, faculty and staff will also be included in the exhibit. 

  • Where: 506 S. Pleasantburg Drive, Building 105, Greenville
  • When: 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday-Saturday Feb. 3-29

On Thursday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m. join Clemson University for a conversation with Netflix’s “Gentified” actress Julissa Calderon as she discusses her experience being Afro-Latina and what Afro-Latinidad means to her. She will be talking about her career journey from waitressing, to Buzzfeed’s Pero Like, to globally recognized Netflix actress all while navigating her Black and Latina identities as an Afro-Latina woman. Register online.

The event is part of a month-long series of activities and information. Check out Clemson’s schedule.

6. Read “The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr” by Peniel E. Joseph. From Amazon description: The author upends reveals a nuanced portrait of two men who, despite markedly different family histories, religious affiliations, and class backgrounds, inspired each other throughout their adult lives. 

7. Watch/listen as authors Alice Randall (“The Wind Done Gone” and “Black Bottom Saints”), Edwedge Danticat (“Breath, Eyes, Memory”) and Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith (“Life on Mars”) discuss their books and the influences, insight, and contributions of black authors, past and present.

8. Read “Exodusters” by Nell Irvin Painter.  Painter was the first Black woman to achieve a PhD in History at Harvard and spent her career as a historian at Princeton.  This book was based on her dissertation.  A beautifully written history of the early years of the nadir of African American experience, following the abandonment of Reconstruction.

Learn about the Orangeburg Massacre. Never heard of it? It’s not surprising. Although it was one of the most violent episodes of the Civil Rights Movement, according to History.com, it is also one of the least recognized. What began as a confrontation over integration of a local bowling alley ended in tragedy on the night of February 8, 1968. After three nights of protests, police beatings and arrests, the National Guard with tanks and live ammo was called into to tamp down a peaceful and unarmed protest at South Carolina State. When the smoke cleared, three young men were dead, 28 wounded, and scores (including Cleveland Sellers, a civil rights activist and father of Bakari Sellers) had been arrested. Read more about how this tragedy unfolded.

Join our virtual conversation with four Greenville County leaders about the opportunities, challenges and imperatives of Being a Black Man Today. Register @ https://bit.ly/Black-Men.

9. Listen to Ezra Klein’s 2020 interview with Bryan Stevenson ( thttps://www.vox.com/21327742/bryan-stevenson-the-ezra-klein-show-america-slavery-healing-racism-george-floyd-protests  ) the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.  Stevenson’s grace and perspective enlightens, challenges and inspires. 

10. Be part of history and join the Library of Congress’s By The People project which invites all interested people to transcribe historical documents and papers as part of its effort to digitize documents and make them more accessible. One project is focused on the life and work of Mary Church Terrell, founding president of the National Association of Colored Women and, in 1909, a founder of the NAACP. Don’t worry, your transcriptions are peer reviewed before they are published!

11. Take a break, take a friend, and have lunch in one of Greenville’s many Black-owned restaurants. This is just a small list, but it’s a start.

  • OJ’s Diner – 907 Pendleton St., Greenville. Open Monday-Friday
  • Bobby’s All-Purpose Seasoning & Barbecue – 1301 N Main St., Fountain Inn. Open Wednesday-Saturday
  • Jamaica Mi Irie – 28 S Main St., Greenville. Open Monday-Saturday.
  • Justshon’s Catering & Bakery – 8649 Augusta Road, Pelzer. Open Sundays.
  • Wings on the Run – 3010 E North St., Greenville. Open Tuesday-Saturday.
  • Bosco’s Baby’s – 202 Conestee Road, Greenville. Open Tuesday-Friday and Sunday.
  • Lowcountry Shrimper – 105 E. Butler Road, Mauldin. Open Tuesday-Sunday.
  • Smokin Wings – 1054 E. Butler Road, Greenville. Open Monday-Sunday.
  • Northwest Grill – 13045 Old White Horse Road, Travelers Rest. Open Monday-Sunday.
  • Peggy’s Diner – 2767 N. Highway 101, Greer. Open Monday-Sunday.

12. For parents: Read aloud “The Watsons go to Birmingham-1963” with your children.  This young person’s novel by Christopher Paul Curtis introduces children to the moment in history when segregationists bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church. 

13. Read “You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey:  Crazy Stories about Racism” by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar. Ruffin is a comedian who works on “Late Night with Seth Meyers”.  She and her sister, Lacey, wrote this entertaining (yet distressing) book about their experiences of being Black while living in Omaha, NE.  There’s also a Slate interview with the sisters discussing their book. 

14. The Chadwick Boseman collection of films goes far beyond the wildly popular Black Panther. Boseman’s last film – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – is a tour de force for Anderson, SC, native Boseman, even though Viola Davis is the titular star. Boseman took on biopics of some of the most iconic Black barrier breakers: James Brown (Get On Up), Jackie Robinson (42), and Thurgood Marshall (Marshall). Available on Netflix and Amazon Prime. A great talent taken far too soon.

15. Get to know Greenville. There’s a rich Black history in our community that you won’t find strolling down Main Street. A few ideas:

  • Sterling Community Center was once a black HS and epicenter of culture and learning. Learn more about the importance of the Sterling Community.
  • Springfield Baptist Church was the hub of non-violent organizing for Civil Rights in the Upstate in the 1960s, a remains a community centerpiece today.
  • The Working Benevolent Temple at the corner of Broad and Falls streets played a big role in the development of Greenville’s black business district. Built by the Working Benevolent Grand State Lodge as its South Carolina headquarters, it provided offices for black doctors, lawyers, dentists, a newspaper, and insurance firms. It also housed the first black mortuary in Greenville. Today it is the EP+Co building.
  • The John Wesley United Methodist Church built at 101 East Court St. circa 1899-1903, was organized soon after the Civil War by Rev. James R. Rosemond. Although born a slave in Greenville in 1820, Rosemond had been allowed to preach at churches before the Civil War. After the war, he organized 50 Methodist Episcopal churches in the Upstate, this being one of the earliest.
  • The Claussen Bakery is an important site in the history of Civil Rights in South Carolina. In 1967, The Rev. Jesse Jackson of Greenville got Martin Luther King Jr. involved in a boycott of the bakery. King came to Greenville in April 1967 and addressed 3500 protestors. That protest and King’s involvement, according to one historian, “taught our community members to fight.”
  • Fountain Inn Principal’s House and Teacherage is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of it’s associatoin with the Fountain Inn Negro School, built in 1928. It is the only remaining building of the educational complex that had been built around it.

More information on historic Greenville here and here.

Get your hands on a copy of the Black America Series’ “Greenville County, South Carolina.” Published in 2007, the book covers Greenville’s history in the periods of slavery and reconstruction, stories on Black pioneers, Black schools, churches, housing and The Civil Rights Movement. It’s available at Barnes and Noble, CVS, Walgreens, Pickwick and more.

16. Read “What Truth Sounds Like” by Michael Eric Dyson. It examines the racial climate in our country from the ’60’s to present day. Through conversations with Robert F. Kennedy and prominent Black activists in the ‘ 60s, the book explores problems of the times and the readiness of Black activists to fight for their civil rights. It is real talk about real problems in America from the ’60’s until  now.

17. Mass incarceration in America has been a stain on the country since 1619 (see #1 on this list). Two powerful books – “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson focus on this from an often unjust justice system to the failure or complete absence of rehabilitation efforts.

18. Read this 1947 article in The New Yorker about the trial of the men responsible for the last lynching in South Carolina. An event that took place in Greenville County. Then read the complete story of Willie Earle, the last lynching in South Carolina, in the book, “They Stole Him Out Of Jail” by William B. Gravely. A historical marker was installed in 2010 but has now been stolen. Read more about this and efforts to purchase and install a new marker.

19. Download a pdf detailing all the African-American cultural sites in the state, updated in 2020. First published in 1936 by N.Y. postman Victor Green, the original Green Book was an African-American travel guide to safe harbors and welcoming establishments across the United States, printed until the mid-1960s. This contemporary homage, created by the South Carolina African-American Heritage Commission, features tourism destinations that impart a new Southern experience, sharing the compelling story of African-American heritage in Greenville County.

20. Read “Stamped from the Beginning:The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi. The National Book Award Winning History of racist ideas were created, spread and deeply rooted in American society. As Kendi shows, racist ideas did not arise from Ignorance or hatred. They were created to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation’s racial inequities. 

21. Follow the International African American Museum on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for news and stories about lives and contributions of African Americans throughout history. The museum is building new headquarters in Charleston and expects to open next year.

One such story is about Ann Lowe, the Black fashion designer who made the wedding dress for Jackie Bouvier’s high-society wedding to Jack Kennedy in 1953. Lowe, in her lifetime never got credit for “the dress”, which was one of the most sought after looks of the era. A bit of the story is here and more about Ann Lowe in this story in The Root.

22. Listen to Pod Save the People, a podcast hosted by organizer and activist DeRay McKesson. It explores news, culture, social justice, and politics with Sam Sinyangwe, Kaya Henderson and De’Ara Balenger. They offer a unique take on the news, with a special focus on overlooked stories and topics that often impact people of color. On Apple, Spotify, Amazon, and more.

23. Watch I Am Not Your Negro, James Baldwin. From the contributor: “I saw this documentary, based on Baldwin’s unfinished book, about a year ago and it made a huge impression on me. First, as you watch film of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, you realize that the only difference between then and now is the quality of the video; the signs and slogans of racism haven’t changed at all. The other thing that pervades the film is the utter sadness of Baldwin over the fact that he is constantly judged for his blackness and not his substance. Such a powerful film!” On Netflix.

24. Learn the story of the Greenville Eight, a group of Black students who entered the Greenville County Library in July 1960 and sat down to explore books and periodicals. Problem was, the county library system was not integrated. Jackson and seven others were arrested. The sit-in was followed by a lawsuit and court-ordered desegregation of the libraries.

25. Read Jesse Jackson’s book “Legal Lynching”, on the failure and fallacy of the death penalty. A native Greenvillian, Jackson is a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement. He was a close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, ran twice for president, and is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Have a laugh as you listen to comedienne Amber Ruffin’s satiric treatise on why we need a White History Month (to get at the truth about Black history).

26. Listen to TaNehisi Coates article “The Case for Reparations” as it appeared in The Atlantic in 2014. “Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.”

27. Visit The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved Black people, and African Americans lynched, segregated and humiliated by racial hatred. While it may have to wait for a post-pandemic trip. It’s an important and moving stop on our journey to understanding.

28. Watch history in the making. Poet Amanda Gorman, 22, and the nation’s first Youth Poet Laureate, stole the show from Gaga and JLo, with an animated reading of her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration on Jan. 6. Watch the moment again and expect to hear more from this powerful voice.

CONTRIBUTORS: Steve Evered, Roxanne Cordonier, Stacey Mars, Whitney Wright, Laura Haight, Elise Fillpot, Leigh Learing, Sharon Garrett, Jeanmarie Tankersley, Mike Roosevelt, Erin Basinger, Jacob Frankovich, Adriene Atkinson, Leola Robinson.

Be the change you want to see: Help the party with a much-needed donation or volunteer to help!