Honoring black authors, culture and history: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh celebrates Black History month one page at a time 

Elijah Cummings

International storyteller Donna Washington and Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, widow of civil rights advocate and Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, will headline Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s (CLP) Black History Month celebration. 

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History has named the theme for 2021 “The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity.” This year, the Library will examine how the idea of family manifests in different aspects of Black life in the past and present through extensive booklists, curated resources and virtual programming. 

Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founder of Black History Month, began the observance in 1926 to coincide with the week in February that hosted the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. What began as a celebration of Black accomplishments in history has grown into an annual tradition and prompted widespread discussion on the Black experience. Every year a theme is chosen with more than 90 celebrated since 1928 (source: asalh.org).

To make it easy for anyone to access the Library’s Black History Month resources in one spot, the team at CLP crafted a page dedicated to Black History Month information (carnegielibrary.org/blackhistorymonth2021/). All programs and events are free to the community. 


  • Virtual Storytelling Event With Donna Washington: Under the Baobob Tree  | Feb. 1 (carnegielibrary.org): Join us as CLP opens our virtual doors to international storyteller, Donna Washington! Tune in to her storytelling which excels at bringing African folklore to life, telling stories of overcoming fear, problem-solving and positive racial identity. This broadcast will be available for one week beginning February 1, 2021.

Donna Washington is a highly animated performer, able to captivate even the hardest-to-make-sit-still audiences. For more than thirty years, she has been inspiring audiences with folklore, literacy tales and personal narratives. But what Donna really excels at is bringing African folklore to life, telling stories of overcoming fear, problem-solving and positive racial identity.

  • We’re Better Than This by Elijah Cummings: A Virtual Conversation with Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings and Jim Dale| Feb. 22 (Zoom): Join fellow readers, Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings and Jim Dale, for a lively discussion via Zoom of the late congressman’s memoir. Learn more about how the book came to be written and the formative moments in Mr. Cummings’ lifetime that helped to shape his dedication to public service. Dr. Cummings will reconstruct the congressman’s final days and reflect on how he would have reacted to recent events. This discussion will be followed by a Q&A session with questions pulled from the meeting room’s chat function. Registration is required for this event.


  • ProQuest Black Historical Newspaper Database Tutorial (YouTube): Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh cardholders have access to a wide range of databases, including ProQuest’s Black Historical Newspapers. Learn how to navigate this online resource containing newspapers from 1893-2010 and coverage of historical events for learning more about the history of Black journalism.

Creative Course Club Videos (available through the Library’s YouTube channel):

  • Abstract Rock Painting Inspired by Alma Woodsey Thomas | Feb. 1 (YouTube): As the first graduate of Howard University’s Art department, Thomas was best known for her vibrant, geometric-patterned paintings that resembled Byzantine mosaics. Join us for Creative Course Club as we make our own rock paintings inspired by Thomas’s style and share resources for learning more about the artist and her craft.
  • Cut Paper Art and Identity Exploration With Kara Walker | Feb. 8 (YouTube): Artist and filmmaker Kara Walker is known for her wall-length cut paper silhouettes and illustrations, including the jacket designer for James Hannaham’s 2015 novel Delicious Foods. Join us for Creative Course Club as we make our own paper crafts inspired by her work and share resources for learning more about the artist and her craft.
  • Block Prints Inspired by the Work of Elizabeth Catlett | Feb. 15 (YouTube): Known for her linocut prints, Elizabeth Catlett was inspired by stories about slavery from her grandmother and depicted the 20th century Black experience in her work. Join us for Creative Course Club as we create our own printing making designs and learn more about the artist.
  • Bisa Butler Inspired Fabric Collages | Feb. 22 (YouTube): Butler is known for her colorful quilted portraits, often of famous figures in Black history including Frederick Douglass and Josephine Baker. Join us for Creative Course Club as we fabric collages inspired by the artist’s work and explore resources to learn more about this craft.

Teen Time at Home Videos (available through the Library’s YouTube and Instagram channels):

  • Brave. Black. First. | Feb. 3 (YouTube and Instagram): Join us for Teen Time at Home as we celebrate and learn about Black women who changed the world. We’ll challenge ourselves to match quotes to the women who said them, learn a little more about them, and share books you can use to learn even more!
  • Through Teenie’s Lens | Feb. 10 (YouTube and Instagram): Join us for Teen Time at Home as we take a look at the Charles “Teenie” Harris Archive online. Teenie was a photographer for The Pittsburgh Courier, one of the most well-known African American newspapers in the country. His photographs have been collected in various books and in an online collection at the Carnegie Museum of Art. We’ll search for our neighborhoods to see older photographs from our community and then talk to someone in our families about it. What do they remember? This program will have a Grab & Go Activity Kit associated with it, which will contain art supplies to help you capture your thoughts and your discussion.

Book Reviews, Book Lists and Databases: 

  • Kids and Teens African American Booklists: Did you know that sharing stories with diverse characters and pictures of people of diverse races and cultures promotes positive racial identity development in young children? Children of all ages can gain confidence and joy in seeing themselves and those around them represented in books. The Library has  gathered stories with African-American characters as leading characters that illustrate African American history, biography and culture.
  • Black Joy, Positive Racial Identity and Storytelling
    The act of sharing stories featuring Black characters results in positive racial identity and joy. When Black children see themselves in stories and experience storytelling tradition, they can see themselves as important and can experience a sense of belonging. This list shares stories, tales, and a title with games and songs as well! With a focus on Black authors and artists, these titles give a chance to begin or to carry on storytelling traditions.
  • African American Experience Database
    For library cardholders, the African American Experience research database, which was developed with the guidance of African American librarians and subject specialists, is the widest ranging collection on African American history and culture with information from Africa and the Atlantic, 500-1550 through to New Millennium, 2001-present. The page also includes the Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive. Developed under the guidance of a board of scholars, this online resource houses an unprecedented collection of more than 5 million cross-searchable pages including books, serials, manuscript collections, Supreme Court records and briefs. Finally, the page directs users to explore the Teenie Harris Archive. With nearly 80,000 images, this archive is one of the most detailed records of the black urban experience.


Connect with the Library

Throughout the month of February CLP will also host special features on the Library’s social media platforms. Patrons are encouraged to follow the Library for weekly Black history trivia, tips for accessing Black history and genealogy resources, photos of Black history library firsts and shared content from local BIPOC organizations and events.

Real-time assistance is available from Library staff 7 days a week. To access library services call 412.622.3114, chat using the “How can we help?” icon the Library’s website, or text 412.775.3900.