Black History in Two Minutes: Watch 93 Videos Written & Narrated by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

We’re near­ly halfway through Feb­ru­ary, which the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca also knows as Black His­to­ry Month. Per­haps there are rel­e­vant sub­jects on which you’ve been mean­ing to catch up, but you haven’t quite got around to it yet. If so, nev­er fear: in the next cou­ple of weeks, you’ll have plen­ty of time to binge-watch the Youtube series Black His­to­ry in Two Min­utes. Writ­ten and nar­rat­ed by his­to­ri­an Hen­ry Louis Gates Jr., it has so far cov­ered every­thing from Har­ri­et Tub­man and Sojourn­er Truth to the Civ­il War and eman­ci­pa­tion to the civ­il rights move­ment and school inte­gra­tion.

Those of us who went to school in the US — and espe­cial­ly those of us who did so after the insti­tu­tion of Black His­to­ry Month, in 1970 — will remem­ber those sub­jects hav­ing been dis­cussed in the class­room. But even with­in the brief con­fines of two min­utes (some­times sprawl­ing out to three min­utes and change), Gates intro­duces facts most of us will nev­er have heard.

For instance, the very first under­ground rail­road in the eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry ran not from the south of the coun­try to the north, but the oth­er way around, Span­ish Flori­da hav­ing then been “a sanc­tu­ary for slaves who fled south from Eng­lish rule” — though the free­dom it offered did require con­ver­sion to Catholi­cism.

Also among the near­ly 100 videos Black His­to­ry in Two Min­utes has so far pro­duced are a wealth of bite-sized treat­ments of move­ments and fig­ures impor­tant to not just black cul­ture but the whole of Amer­i­can cul­ture. These include Bil­lie Hol­i­day and Maya Angelou, the 1893 World’s Fair, the births of jazz and hip hop, and Negro league base­ball. The show also encom­pass­es episodes of his­to­ry well with­in liv­ing mem­o­ry, such as the Los Ange­les riots and the elec­tion of Barack Oba­ma — as well as the ear­li­er, pio­neer­ing pres­i­den­tial run of Jesse Jack­son. And in light of Jack­son’s cam­paign T‑shirts’ hav­ing made a fash­ion come­back in Korea, where I live, it now seems to say that the cul­ture that has arisen out of black his­to­ry isn’t just vital to the cul­ture of Amer­i­ca, but of the world.

You can watch the com­plete playlist of videos at the top, or vis­it the Black His­to­ry in Two Min­utes web­site here.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed con­tent:

Take Free Online Cours­es on African-Amer­i­can His­to­ry from Yale and Stan­ford: From Eman­ci­pa­tion, to the Civ­il Rights Move­ment, and Beyond

30,000 Pho­tographs of Black His­to­ry & Cul­ture Are Avail­able Online in a New Get­ty Images Archive

How African-Amer­i­can Explor­er Matthew Hen­son Became the First Per­son to Reach the North Pole, Then Was For­got­ten for Almost 30 Years

Take The Near Impos­si­ble Lit­er­a­cy Test Louisiana Used to Sup­press the Black Vote (1964)

W.E.B. Du Bois Cre­ates Rev­o­lu­tion­ary, Artis­tic Data Visu­al­iza­tions Show­ing the Eco­nom­ic Plight of African-Amer­i­cans (1900)

Watch the Pio­neer­ing Films of Oscar Micheaux, America’s First Great African-Amer­i­can Film­mak­er

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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