Whereas: Stories from the People’s House

Edition for Educators—Celebrating Black History Month 2019

In celebration of Black History Month, this Edition for Educators blog focuses on content we’ve recently added to the History, Art & Archives website. For this February, we’ve compiled a few of the new oral histories, blogs, digitized images, and updated statistics from the last year to feature below.

Featured Oral History

Representative Ron Dellums of California
The first African-American Member of the Armed Services Committee and a fierce advocate for civil rights, the late Representative Ron Dellums’ oral history interviews and transcripts have now been collected as a single source. In the video below, he discusses his historic appointment to the Armed Services Committee in 1973.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California Interview recorded April 19, 2012 Transcript (PDF)

Dellums represented California in the U.S. House of Representatives for 28 years. In his last term in the majority, he became chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He shares his thoughts on his chairman portrait completed in 1997.

The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums, U.S. Representative of California Interview recorded April 19, 2012 Transcript (PDF)
Jet Magazine/tiles/non-collection/2/2-21-Jet-Newbies-2017_032_000.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Among the House Collections acquisitions in the past year are several issues of Jet Magazine featuring African-American Members of Congress on the cover.

Featured Blogs

Guts, Stamina, Audacity: Shirley Chisholm’s House Career
Fifty years ago, Shirley Chisholm, the charismatic and outspoken Brooklyn educator and politician, made history when she became the first African-American woman to serve in Congress. Small in stature, but with a larger-than-life persona, “Fighting Shirley” was a tireless advocate for her constituents, quotable and stylish and unyielding. Chisholm encapsulated the resolve of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and brought national attention to the issues she championed.

Integrating Dick and Jane
Juanita Barbee’s cat-eye glasses sparkled as she looked down at the page. Reading elementary school textbooks was not a normal part of her job as California Representative Gus Hawkins’s administrative assistant. But this book—the “multicultural” Dick and Jane reader—played a role in a congressional hearing about bias, race, and education.

“I Ask Nothing Because I am a Negro”: A Letter to the Committee on Military Affairs
By age 26, Henry Ossian Flipper’s place in history was already assured. In 1877, he became the first African-American cadet to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point, where his fellow students routinely harassed him because he was black. As the first African-American commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, Flipper eventually commanded the Buffalo Soldiers, African-American cavalry who previously had only ever been led by white officers. But a terrible twist in Flipper’s story forced him to seek the assistance of the House of Representatives in resolving charges against him that cut short his promising start.

Charles Cole Diggs, Jr. and Frances Payne Bolton/tiles/non-collection/2/2-21-Ghana-PA2019_01_0055.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Representative Frances P. Bolton of Ohio dances with Representative Charles Diggs, Jr. of Michigan during the state ball held in Accra, Ghana, on March 6, 1957, to celebrate Independence Day for the new nation.

Featured Exhibition

Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2019: Historical Essays
This month, the Office of the Historian released an updated e-book edition of its Black Americans in Congress publication. Alongside the new e-book, the office has updated the historical essays in our online exhibit. The revised text brings the story of African-American Members of Congress forward to 2019. This includes expanded sections on the Civil Rights Acts of 1875 and 1968, further details on discrimination faced by new Members, and updated statistics.

Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2019: Historical Data
As part of the Black Americans in Congress exhibit, the office maintains historical data on African-American Members in Congress. To date, 162 African Americans have served in Congress. Fifty-seven are current Members—54 serve in the House and three serve in the Senate. Beyond total numbers, the office also tracks committee assignments, committee and party leadership positions, and chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus.

This is part of a series of blog posts for educators highlighting the resources available on History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.