Since launching in 1926 under the suggestion of historian Carter Godwin Woodson, Black History Month has been a pivotal period of commemoration for Americans and Canadians alike. With over 45 million African-Americans in the U.S. today (making about 15% of the country’s population) and an ever-growing public consciousness for systematic racial divide, more North Americans are readily exploring the nation’s rich yet turbulent history of American black culture. The importance of celebrating Black History Month and the community’s positive achievements and contributions to history as a whole are especially paramount, given the current landscape of race relations in the U.S. where stories of Spike Lee’s boycott of a White-dominated Oscars to shootings toward unarmed black people like Trayvon Martin‘s case continue to dominate headlines.
With BHM just around the corner, The New York Times team went digging through the publication’s vast collection of photographs to share unreleased negatives taken during important moments in African-American history. Never-before-seen photos of police-demonstrator confrontations, rallies protesting the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, poet and social critic James Baldwin, Run-D.M.C., writer and novelist Zora Neale Hurston, and singer, actress and activist Lena Horne are presented with iconic photos of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. years before he famously marched through Lincoln Memorial as well as Malcolm X‘s fire-destroyed living room from when he famously dodged a firebomb attack at his humble home in East Elmhurst, Queens, New York in 1965 just one week before his assassination.
Check out a selection of photographs in the gallery above and view more photos here. Stay tuned for more pictures to be released throughout the month of February – every day during Black History Month, The NY Times will be releasing at least one photograph online with accompanying stories for us to learn, engage and stay connected with the movement.