Black History Month

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.’ ”

Martin Luther King Jr.
“I Have a Dream” March on Washington August 28, 1963

February is Black History Month! The Memphis Public Libraries have a wealth of resources to learn more about Black History, the Civil Rights Movement, and our city’s place in history. We have a library card contest, virtual events, videos, book lists, archives, and more.

black history month events @ the library

memphis black history library card contest

Beginner, amateur, or professional artist? Doesn’t matter. You can submit your work for consideration in the Memphis Black History Library Card Contest through March 11. Winning designs will appear on Library Cards.

“Satchel Paige & Negro League Baseball” magic show
feb 22-mar 8

Tommy Terrific’s Wacky Magic will be performing a magic show about Satchel Paige and Negro League Baseball.  The show will be filled with baseball-themed magic tricks, and it will explore the life and accomplishments of baseball pitcher Satchel Paige.

Librarians Explore: Black History Month

Join the Librarians of the Children’s Department on an educational exploration of Black History Month

Here is a list of books shown in the video. Place them on hold and pick them up from any library location.

The video also mentions the 901 Student Passport available to print here.

An Unseen Light book discussion with Charles W. McKinney Jr.
feb 24 – 4:00 pm

Join us along with Charles W. McKinney, Neville Frierson Bryan Chair of Africana Studies and Associate Professor of History at Rhodes College, for a discussion on his book “An Unseen Light: Black Struggles for Freedom in Memphis, Tennessee”, a book which he co-edited in 2018.  Register here.

BLM Teen Forum
feb 26 – 4:00 pm

Join MPL teen librarians for a Black Lives Matter Teen Forum where local youth will have the opportunity to learn, grow, and voice their opinions about the tumultuous events of our city and nation in 2020. The discussion forum will cover topics such as youth violence, social injustice, and systemic racism in an effort to help us understand the present narrative, and how we can move forward to heal our communities.  Register here.

more upcoming events

other virtual events

dig memphis digital archive collections

The civil rights collection

The Civil Rights Collection pulls material from several sources, including the George W. Lee Collection, the Arthur L. Webb Collection, and the A.W. Willis, Jr. Collection. Bringing together newspapers, photographs, correspondence, and speeches, the collection illustrates the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis.


Released in 1929 by MGM, King Vidor’s early talkie film, Hallelujah! , was the first movie musical to feature an all-black cast. The Library of Congress has called it one of “the very first indisputable masterpieces of the sound era”. The film, shot on location in Memphis and across the Mid-South, dramatizes the lives of African-American sharecroppers in the early 20th Century. The Hallelujah! Collection contains production photographs, movie stills, publicity materials, and video discussions of the film’s importance. You can also see our catalog and check the availability of the DVD.


Civil rights pioneer Benjamin Lawson Hooks was born in Memphis on January 31, 1925. He became first African American Criminal Court Judge in Shelby County, the first African American to serve on the Federal Communications Commission, and in 1977, he was elected executive director of the NAACP. Hooks led that venerable civil rights organization until his retirement in 1993. The Benjamin L. Hooks Collection includes personal material as well official NAACP documents, Freemasons programs, ministry information, photographs, and other miscellaneous materials.


The M Files Collection is the place to find all things Memphis! The collection contains newspaper clippings, photographs, audio/video files, and a collection of African American Portraits, highlighting some of the city’s greatest leaders, thinkers, and doers.

library research resources

black history month collection

Gale eBooks is a database of encyclopedias and specialized reference sources for multidisciplinary research. Access reference books such as Contemporary Black Biography. These reference materials once were accessible only in the library, but now you can access them online from the library or remotely 24/7.

Contact us for password if accessing from outside of the Library.

Commercial appeal newsbank

NOTE: WE HAVE TEMPORARY ACCESS TO EXPANDED YEARS, 1894-TODAY! See primary source newspaper accounts of events in our City’s history.

NOTE: Library Card required. Sign up for one online and use it immediately. More details HERE.


U.S. History (Gale OneFile) contains scholarly journals and magazines that can be used by novice historians as well as advanced academic researchers. Updated daily, U.S. History offers balanced coverage of events in U.S. history and scholarly work being established in the field.

Gale also provides a collection of worksheets to guide research on Black Mathematicians. Watch this short video for a quick demonstration.

other online resources

african american history month website

The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.

Association for the study of african american life and history

Website for the founders of Black History Month. Find information on past award winners, publications, and events including this year’s virtual festival.