The Birth of the Negro Almanac and the Evolution of Written Resources on African American History

The Negro Almanac Collection represents the burgeoning efforts of historians to document African American achievement over the course of America’s 400+ year existence. The Negro Almanac Collection consists of 950 photographs compiled by Harry A. Ploski for his reference work titled The Negro Almanac. The photographs depict some of the most well-known African Americans in the realms of sports, the arts, music, politics, the sciences, education, business, civil rights, and entertainment. They also depict African Americans who participated in historic events such as the Civil War, WWI, the Vietnam War, and the Westward Expansion. The collection brings some of the most iconic photos of African Americans under one collection to be consulted.

A 19th century Black family.

A 19th century Black family.

The Negro Almanac became an important ready reference book for public libraries and has gone through nine editions since its first publication in 1967. Ploski received assistance in completing the book from his co-author, Dr. Roscoe C. Brown. After subsequent editions of the book were published, its name eventually changed to theAfrican American Almanac in 1989, replacing the term Negro because it had become an outdated identifier for Black Americans. The topics covered in the Almanac have also changed since its 1967 initial publication to include historical events, people, places and ideologies that reflect the development of contemporary Black America.

Slaves on a plantation.

Slaves on a plantation.

The photos in the Negro Almanac Collection highlight Ploski’s attempt to provide a visual representation of the people and movements discussed in his book. Many of the photographs can be attributed to news agencies such as the Associated Press and United Press International. The hand drawn pictorials documenting Black participation in the anti-slavery movement are largely from Harper’s Weekly. The images also have an international scope, documenting the peoples, activities and leaders of African countries such as Liberia, Nigeria, Algeria, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), South Africa and Ethiopia. The Negro Almanac Collection can be a useful source of historical images for K-12 education on African American history.

Post by Chianta Dorsey.

Images from the Negro Almanac Collection. May not be reproduced without permission.


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