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Classics to Celebrate Black History Month

February 1, 2019

Photos of Solomon Northup, Carter G. Woodson, and Frederick Douglass

The United States celebrates Black History Month every year during the month of February. This annual federal celebration takes place to honor the achievements and successes of African Americans in U.S. history. The designated month started as “Negro History Week” in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, a historian, journalist, and the “father of black history.” By 1970, many educational institutions in the United States were celebrating Black History for the entire month of February. Today, people, businesses, and institutions celebrate the rich history and culture of African Americans in many different ways.

Canterbury Classics celebrates African Americans in history

all year round with the classics below!


When Solomon Northup, born a free black man in Saratoga, New York, was offered a short-term job with a circus in Washington, D.C., in 1841, he jumped at the opportunity. But when he arrived, he was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana. Finally, with the help of a Canadian abolitionist, he was rescued and reunited with his family in New York. In this memoir published in 1853, Northup tells the incredible story of his twelve years as a slave.

Born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland, Frederick Douglass became a champion of the abolitionist movement after escaping to the North in 1838. Douglass later remarked upon his arrival in New York, “I have often been asked how I felt when I first found myself on free soil. And my readers may share the same curiosity.” Readers did indeed share this curiosity and Douglass became a much-admired orator and writer, active in both the abolitionist and the women’s suffrage movements. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Other Works offers important glimpses into American history and is a great way to celebrate Black History Month. 

The story of a slave struggling to maintain his dignity during the pre-Civil War era, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in 1852 to tremendous success. Since then, the book has received significant acclaim and invoked controversy. Many believe it was an important step on the road to the Civil War, but others feel it encouraged stereotypes still fought against today. Yet all can agree that Harriett Beecher Stowe’s novel was been incredibly influential. Following the slave Tom as he is bought and sold to one owner after another, as well as other slaves who escape to freedom with much difficulty, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a crucial part of our American history.

One of the most popular books of all-time, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been both venerated and vilified since it was first published in 1885. The story of a young abused boy on the run and his friendship with a runaway slave is about loyalty, compassion, and doing what is right, and it remains one of Mark Twain’s greatest achievements.


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