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Historically Black


Objects hold history. They evoke stories stamped in time. The Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. has opened up a world of stories that visitors are flocking to discover. 

To mark the September 2016 opening of the museum, The Washington Post invited people across the country to submit photographs of objects in their family that connect them personally to black history. APM Reports teamed up with The Post to create a podcast series that spotlights some of those objects and the stories behind them. Historically Black reveals intimate and surprising aspects of history through interviews, archival sound and music.

This special programming is produced by Stephen Smith and Kate Ellis of APM Reports and the episodes are hosted by popular African American actors and writers.

You can hear Historically Black on Public Radio 89.5.  You can also listen live here. 

Episode One
Thursday, February 16 and 12:00 p.m. | Friday, February 17 at 8:00 p.m. 
Hosted by Michele Norris. Narrated by Keegan-Michael Key and Roxane Gay   


NASA 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 faced discrimination, but would help NASA astronauts land on the moon. Million Man March The Million Man March of 1995 is remembered in a conversation between a young woman and her father, who attended it. He talks about how the event changed his life; she recalls what it meant to see a poster of the march hang on the wall of her father's den since she was a girl. Harlem Renaissance Photographer James Van Der Zee was a celebrated African American photographer who documented black New York for much of the 20th century. During the Harlem Renaissance of the 1910s to the 1930s, his images emphasized the dignity and beauty of black people at a time when the dominant culture portrayed them in degrading ways.


Episode Two 
Thursday, February 23 and 12:00 p.m. | Friday, February 24 at 8:00 p.m. 
Hosted by Michele Norris. Narrated by Issa Rae and Another Round podcast duo Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton

Slave 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. Missouri Fiddler A young musician and actor discovers that his great-great-grandfather was Bill Driver, a celebrated fiddler in Missouri. Family members recall how Driver's fiddle playing often brought blacks and whites together at country dances and fiddle contests. They also reveal the complicated nature of interracial mixing in the Jim Crow era. HBCU Founder William Hooper Councill was a former slave who served as the first president of what would become Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, one of the oldest historically black colleges and universities in the country. Negotiating the race politics of Reconstruction was sometimes dangerous work; Councill used his skills at writing and oratory to call for the uplift of his race.

Episode Three
Thursday, March 2 and 12:00 p.m. | Friday, March 3 at 8:00 p.m. 
Hosted by Michele Norris. Narrated by Rozane Gray and podcast duo 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?" Black Love Stories This story spotlights enduring love among African American couples. It dives into the history of marriage among black Americans — including the time when it was illegal for slaves to wed. It also explores why it matters that these stories are visible in pop culture today.

Host Bios

Michele Norris is one of the most trusted voices in American Journalism. She co-hosted NPR’s flagship afternoon broadcast, All Things Considered. She was a creator of the network’s Race Card Project. Before joining NPR in 2002, Michele spent almost ten years as a reporter for ABC News in the Washington Bureau. She has also worked as a staff writer for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. (Michele is pronounced: MEE-shell)

Keegan-Michael Key is a popular film and television actor. He was the co-star and co-creator of Comedy Central's Key & Peele, winner of a Peabody Award and an American Comedy Award.

Issa Rae is the creator and star of the hit HBO series Insecure, and of the award-winning Web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. Her first book, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, is a New York Times bestseller.

Roxane Gay is an associate professor of English at Purdue University. Her books include An Untamed StateBad Feminist, and Difficult Women. Her writing has appeared in major periodicals and collections, including Virginia Quarterly ReviewThe Los Angeles TimesThe NationBest American Short Stories 2012, and Best American Mystery Stories 2014.

Heben Nigatu is a writer for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and the co-host of BuzzFeed's podcast Another Round

And Tracy Clayton is a writer for BuzzFeed and co-host of Another RoundThe Onion's A.V. Club describes Clayton and Nigatu as "funny and insightful hosts, bringing their infectious personalities to conversations that range from squirrels to self-care to microaggressions in the workplace."



Credit APMReports.
Credit APMReports.