Sree's Stories


Focusing on Black Heritage

February 9, 1998
Pg. D4
Black History Month need not be confined to a four-week period anymore.
Thanks to the World Wide Web, it is possible to study the history of the
African-American experience year round. But February, when it is
officially observed, is a good time to seek out information, as many sites
have highlighted special sections for visitors.

"Over the last couple of years, the visibility of sites about the month
has greatly increased," said Joel Dreyfuss, former editor of Our World
News, an on-line newspaper that offers "news from a black perspective."
Mr. Dreyfuss, who is now a senior editor at Fortune magazine, said that
the increased presence went hand-in-hand with the growth of general sites
owned and operated by African-Americans.

One starting point is San Francisco-based Netnoir, which bills itself
as the "soul of cyberspace." Its spotlight on Black History Month features
a background essay about the origins of the celebration, as well as
profiles of important figures, including Rosa Parks -- whose refusal to
move to the back of the bus helped start the civil rights movement -- and
the actor Paul Robeson. There is also a trivia section that tests and
educates at the same time. Among the questions: Who was the first black to
win the Nobel Peace Prize?

No, it was not the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ralph J. Bunche, the
United Nations Under Secretary, won the Nobel in 1950 for his mediation of
the 1948 Arab-Israeli dispute.

Naturally, Dr. King and his legacy are highly visible on sites that
deal with African-American history. The definitive site is the Martin
Luther King Jr. Papers Project, based at Stanford University. It has an
extensive collection of documents by and about Dr. King, as well as a link
to the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta.

Afro-Americ@, the site of Baltimore-based Afro-American Newspapers, has
several exhibits in its on-line Black History Museum, which has links,
photographs and documents. The site deals with aspects of black history
that are well known, like slavery and the Black Panthers, as well as some
that are not, such as the black reporters who covered battlefronts in
World War II.

The Encyclopaedia Brittanica site has a guide to black history that is
free until the end of this month. The encyclopedia's vast print resources
have been combined with video and audio to make the section useful to
students and adults alike. The entry on Malcolm X, whose death anniversary
is on Feb. 21, is an effective example of its multimedia approach. A handy
timeline takes you through the ages, beginning with the early 16th century
(the start of the slave trade) and ending with 1997 (Michael Jordan and
the Chicago Bulls win their fifth N.B.A. championship).

There are several sites that deal with the man who is widely considered
the father of the study of black history. To learn about Carter G.
Woodson, who established Negro History Week in 1926, visit the Association
for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. In 1976, 26 years after
his death, the week was turned into Black History Month.

Two sites that do not prominently feature Black History Month per se
but are worth a visit are the site of the N.A.A.C.P. and the W.E.B. Du
Bois Institute for Afro-American Research. N.A.A.C.P. Online is a good
introduction to the oldest and most famous civil rights group in the
United States. And the Harvard-based Du Bois Institute, which is named for
the co-founder of the N.A.A.C.P., has information about its programs,
fellowships and faculty.

The on-line resources of the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center
for Research in Black Culture provide insight into the extent of the
contribution of blacks to the shaping of American culture. They include
exhibits about the Harlem Renaissance in the early part of this century
and key figures in it, like the writer Langston Hughes.

A site that is unusually creative in its approach to African-American
movies and music is Black Voices. It includes a "Blaxploitation" section,
which lists movies in this genre, like "Shaft" and "Blacula," and a
"Jukebox" section, with sound clips from a variety of recordings, like
Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag," Charlie Parker's "Bird" and the Supremes'
"Where Did Our Love Go." Black Voices has also teamed up with the on-line
retailer Music Boulevard to offer a selection of albums and articles to
accompany observations of Black History Month (all conveniently for sale,
of course).