Mark Black History Month with the University Libraries

February 2, 2023

Celebrate Black history at UNC-Chapel Hill and beyond with lists, recommendations and exhibits from the University Libraries. Whether you want to find the perfect e-book on Black Resistance or learn about rare materials unique to Carolina’s libraries, there’s a way for you to engage.

OverDrive Collections

Carolina’s OverDrive collections provide access to thousands of e-books and audiobooks, no matter where you are. The OverDrive team has put together a collection of books on this year’s Black History Month theme: Black Resistance. While you’re at it, check out the collection focused on last year’s theme, Black Health & Wellness, or the AfroLatinx Authors and Stories list.

On the Books: Jim Crow and the Algorithms of Resistance

On the Books: Jim Crow and the Algorithms of Resistance is a project of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries that used text mining and machine learning to discover Jim Crow and racially-based legislation signed into law in North Carolina between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement. The site includes a database of Jim Crow laws identified by machine learning, lesson plans for educators, and an interactive timeline of historical events relevant to segregation.

Black History in the Wilson Special Collections Library

The Wilson Special Collections Library is home to rare and unique materials that provide deeper insight into Black history at Carolina and across the American South.

See the documents and photographs of Omar ibn Said. Said was an Islamic scholar kidnapped from present-day Senegal in 1807 and sold into slavery in the United States. He is one of the few enslaved Muslims to leave documents, and his writings demonstrate the presence of Islam as a religion and Arabic as a language in the American South during the earliest parts of American history. Said’s life is the inspiration for Rhiannon Gidden’s opera, “Omar.” Students can sign up to see the Said materials in person in late February or early March.

Learn about the life and work of poet George Moses Horton through original copies of his poems and letters and a transcription of his address to The University of North Carolina. Horton was enslaved in North Carolina from his birth in 1798 through the Civil War; he taught himself to read and, in addition to poetry, wrote on freedom and the abolition of slavery. In 2007, UNC-Chapel Hill named George Moses Horton Residence Hall in his honor.

African American Newspapers at the NC Digital Heritage Center

The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center’s African American Newspapers exhibit contains digitized copies of more than three dozen Black newspapers from throughout North Carolina’s history. The exhibit highlights newspapers edited and/or published by African Americans for an African American audience.

Exhibitions at the Sonya Hanes Stone Center

The Stone Center Library for Black Culture and History will display two exhibits during Black History Month: “Black Love, Families and Relationships” and “I Am Everything Good: The Black Image in Children’s Picture Books.” The library is open to visitors most weekdays.

Finding Your People: Exploring the Past, Present and Future of Documenting Black Families in Special Collections and Archives

Join the Southern Historical Collection at the Wilson Special Collections Library on February 9 at 1:30 p.m. for a virtual panel discussion.

The Black family, its structure, representation, and characteristics seem to be a near-constant topic of question and conjecture in our society. What role do archives play in these discussions and our understanding of the Black family?

This panel discussion will bring together faculty researchers and archival practitioners to discuss the representation of Black families in the archive, the history and impact of collecting and examine where we are at this current moment, and what the future of Black family collections might look like.

Up Close and Personal with Omar ibn Said

UNC-Chapel Hill students can get a rare firsthand look at the Omar ibn Said photographs and manuscripts held in Wilson Special Collections Library! These materials, which can only be found at Carolina, provide unique insight into Said’s life and the ways that religion and racism were intertwined in the institution of slavery. 

Said is one of the few enslaved Muslims to leave documents, and his Arabic writings include Islamic passages alongside biblical text. Said’s writings, including the manuscripts in Wilson’s collection, illustrate the presence of Islam as a religion and Arabic as a language in the American South during the earliest part of American history. 

The Said photographs and manuscripts in Wilson’s collection have appeared in the Smithsonian, inspired research on the role of religion in the American South and informed an opera about Said’s life. The delicate nature of these materials means they cannot be displayed often, so make sure to see them while you can!

Students can sign up to see the materials at the following dates and times: