Historically Black

Historically Black

United States

Objects hold history. They're evocative of stories stamped in time. As part of The Washington Post's coverage of the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American History and Culture, people submitted dozens of objects that make up their own lived experiences of black history, creating a "people's museum" of personal objects, family photos and more. The Historically Black podcast brings those objects and their stories to life through interviews, archival sound and music. The Washington Post and APM Reports are proud to collaborate in presenting these rich personal histories, along with hosts Keegan-Michael Key, Roxane Gay, Issa Rae and Another Round hosts Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton.


The Question of Black Identity  

Racial identity in the U.S. is complicated because race is an invented category rooted in slavery. This episode explores the question of black identity in America through the voices of four people who, at one time or another, have had to answer the question: What are you?

Harlem Through James Van Der Zee's Lens  

James Van Der Zee was a celebrated African American photographer who documented black New York for much of the 20th century. Van Der Zee was New York's leading black photographer during the Harlem Renaissance. His images emphasized the dignity, beauty and prosperity of black people at a time when the dominant culture didn't.

The Fiddler who Charmed Missouri  

A young musician and actor discovers that his great, great grandfather was Bill Driver, a celebrated fiddler in Missouri. Family members recall how his fiddle playing often brought blacks and whites together at country dances and fiddle contests, and describe his legacy today. The family's story also highlights the complicated nature of inter-racial mixing in the Jim Crow era.

Tracking Down a Slave's Bill of Sale  

Members of an extended Tennessee family talk about their great, great grandfather, a slave owned by his white, biological father. After emancipation, their ancestor managed to buy a farm. Family members reflect on the strength it took to survive slavery and to prosper in the years that followed.

The Spirit of the Million Man March  

The Million Man March of 1995 is recreated through the conversation between a young woman and her father, who attended it. He talks about how the event changed his life, and she recalls what it meant to see a poster of the march hanging on the wall of her father's den since she was a girl.

NASA's Human Computers  

During World War II, a labor shortage obliged the military to hire African American women with mathematical skills to help make complicated computations for warplane designs. This small team of black women faced discrimination but eventually would help NASA astronauts land on the moon. One woman whose grandmother was a "computer" helps tell the story.

Coming Soon: Historically Black  

Each week, Historically Black will feature one object in black history and the story behind it.

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