Commemorating February as Black History Month, this collection of historical and contemporary photographs offers glimpses into the dynamic lives of African Americans over time.

For example, on June 24, 1896, educator Booker T. Washington became the first African American to receive an honorary degree from Harvard University.

That evening, during an alumni dinner, Washington said: “In working out our destiny, while the main burden and center of activity must be with us, we shall need, in a large measure in the years that are to come, as we have in the past, the help, the encouragement, the guidance that the strong can give the weak. Thus helped, we of both races in the South soon shall throw off the shackles of racial and sectional prejudice and rise, as Harvard University has risen and as we all should rise, above the clouds of ignorance, narrowness and selfishness, into that atmosphere, that pure sunshine, where it will be our highest ambition to serve MAN, our brother, regardless of race or previous condition.”

(Speech cited from http://btwsociety.org/library/honors/01.php)

1 Richard T. Greener was the first black to enter the College and to complete the undergraduate curriculum with an A.B. in 1870 (“winning the chief prizes in writing and speaking along the way”). He was not, however, the first black to be admitted, a distinction belonging to Beverly Garnett Williams, in 1847. (He died just before the academic year began and thus never entered the College.) Photo ca. 1870. Credit: Harvard University Archives, call # HUP Greener, R.T. (2a)
2 This Class Book photograph shows W.E.B. Du Bois, Harvard College Class of 1890. In his “Last message to the world” in 1957, Du Bois wrote, “Believe in life! Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader and fuller life.” Credit: Harvard University Archives, call # HUD 290.04 pf
3 This image shows the title page of W.E.B. Du Bois’ 1895 doctoral dissertation, “The Suppression of the African Slave Trade,” which was the first book in the Harvard Historical Series, published in 1896. Du Bois earned three degrees from Harvard — A.B. 1890, A.M. 1891, and Ph.D. 1895 — and was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. Credit: Harvard University Archives, call # HU 90.330
4 Thirty-one-year-old Clement G. Morgan made national headlines as the first African American chosen to deliver a Harvard senior class oration. Photo ca. 1890. Harvard University Archives, call # HUP Morgan, C.G. (1a)
5 William H. Lewis, LL.B. 1895, was the first African American named to a College Football All-America Team. He was the first African American to be honored as an All-American. Lewis was hired as a football coach at Harvard, where he served from 1895 to 1906. This Varsity Football Team fall season photograph shows Lewis (third from right, seated) in 1892. Credit: Harvard University Archives, call # UAV 170.270.2 PF
6 William H. Lewis, LL.B. 1895, was the first African American named to a College Football All-America Team. He was the first African American to be honored as an All-American. Lewis was hired as a football coach at Harvard, where he served from 1895 to 1906. This Varsity Football Team fall season photograph shows a close-up of Lewis in 1892. Credit: Harvard University Archives, call # UAV 170.270.2 PF
7 Liberian student Plenyono Gbe Wolo, A.B. 1917 (far right), was the first Harvard College student from the African continent. He is seated at the “cosmopolitan table” inside Foxcroft Hall at a Randall Hall Association meeting in 1914. Credit: Harvard University Archives, call # HUD 3404
8 Professional boxing teacher A. Molyneaux Hewlett becomes superintendent of Harvard’s new College Gymnasium and a gymnastics teacher. The first African American on Harvard’s staff, Hewlett remains until his death in 1871. Photo ca. 1860. Credit: Harvard University Archives, call # HUP Hewlett, A. Molyneaux (3a)
9 Detail of W.E.B. Du Bois (center) in a group photo of the 20th Class Reunion of the Class of 1890 on June 28, 1910 in Tempest Knob. Credit: Harvard University Archives, HUPSF Class of 1890 (PA 1)
10 Detail of Clement G. Morgan (center) in a group photo of the 20th Class Reunion of the Class of 1890 on June 28, 1910 in Tempest Knob. Morgan, A.B. 1890, L.L.B. 1893, was the first African American to hold degrees from both Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Credit: Harvard University Archives, HUPSF Class of 1890 (PA 1)
11 Alberta Virginia Scott, A.B. 1898, was the first African-American graduate of Radcliffe. Credit: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University (http://www.radcliffe.edu/schles/)
12 Alberta Virginia Scott, A.B. 1898, the first African-American graduate of Radcliffe, in a special dress for a class celebration. Photo ca. 1898. Credit: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University (http://www.radcliffe.edu/schles/)
13 Booker T. Washington (center, right) listens to Theodore Roosevelt (center, left) deliver a speech on stage in Tuskegee, Alabama. On June 24, 1896, Washington became the first African American to receive an honorary degree from Harvard University. Photo by American Press Association. Photo credit: Theodore Roosevelt Collection (560.52 1905-168)
14 Eva B. Dykes earned three degrees at Radcliffe — A.B. 1917 (magna cum laude), A.M. 1918, and Ph.D. 1921. She was one of the first three African-American women in the United States (and the only one at Radcliffe) to earn a Ph.D., and she also was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Credit: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University (http://www.radcliffe.edu/schles/)
15 This Harvard Varsity Lacrosse Team spring season photograph from 1941 shows Lucien Alexis (top row, second from right) and coach Richard W. Snibbe, M.Arch ’41(top row, left). Alexis’ involvement in the 1941 Harvard Lacrosse Team sparked a debate about segregation that helped contribute to the desegregation of college athletics in the South. Credit: Harvard University Archives, call # UAV 170.270 PF
16 This Harvard Varsity Lacrosse Team spring season photograph from 1941 shows Lucien Alexis (top row, second from right), whose involvement in the 1941 Harvard Lacrosse Team sparked a debate about segregation that helped contribute to the desegregation of college athletics in the South. Credit: Harvard University Archives, call # UAV 170.270 PF
17 This 1943 yearbook photo shows Drue King (middle row, second from right), whose membership in the 1941 Harvard Glee Club sparked a debate about segregation that contributed to the desegregation of venues for college musical groups touring the South. Credit: Harvard University Archives, call # HUD 343.04
18 This 1943 yearbook close-up shows Drue King, whose membership in the 1941 Harvard Glee Club sparked a debate about segregation that contributed to the desegregation of venues for college musical groups touring the South. Credit: Harvard University Archives, call # HUD 343.04
19 Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor Emeritus Charles Willie (left) speaks with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Syracuse University. Photo courtesy of Professor Charles Willie
20 The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at Harvard University. Credit: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University (http://www.radcliffe.edu/schles/)
21 President Nathan Pusey with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of Appleton Chapel during a Southern Christian Leadership Conference meeting on Jan. 10, 1965. Also pictured is the Rev. Charles P. Price (upper right). Credit: Harvard University Archives, call # UAV 605 Box 86
22 Sept. 18, 1998. South African President Nelson Mandela holds aloft his honorary degree at a special convocation at Harvard. Professor Jeffrey Sachs (left) and University Marshal Richard M. Hunt (right) join in the applause. Photo by Mike Quan
23 Feb. 7, 2003. Members of the Harlem Boys Choir Jermaine Lewis (from left), Sean Haythe, and Corri Miller receive handouts during a visit to view rare historical African-American manuscripts at the Harvard Theatre Collection Reading Room at Pusey Library. The visit followed a lecture by English Professor Elisa New. Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
24 April 24, 2009. The Family Van travels throughout the city of Boston providing basic medical attention to underserved communities in the metro-Boston area including Dorchester, Hyde Park, Mattapan, and Roxbury. Harvard Medical School’s Nancy Oriol (from left) and Alvin Poussaint speak to Sandra Moreno, who translates for clients from Cape Verde and works for WIC. Photo by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
25 March 11, 2005. Inside Sanders Theatre, DJ Spooky (artist and musician Paul D. Miller) performs “Rebirth of a Nation,” a remix of D.W. Griffith’s Civil War epic “The Birth of a Nation.” The 75-minute presentation was followed by a Q&A with Elvis Mitchell, visiting lecturer on African and African-American studies and on visual and environmental studies. Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
26 April 27, 2005. “A Season of Laureates: Readings in Honor of the 70th Birthday of Wole Soyinka” pays homage to literary giant and human rights activist Wole Soyinka (right), who receives a standing ovation from the crowd. Derek Walcott (from left), Nadine Gordimer, and Henry Louis Gates Jr. applaud. Photo by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
27 Oct. 11, 2007. Toni Morrison speaks at the Memorial Church as part of the inauguration activities for Harvard President Drew Faust. Photo by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
28 April 3, 2010. Dorothy Austin (from left), Sedgwick Associate Minister in the Memorial Church; Peter J. Gomes, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church; and Martin Wallner ’11, verger, light candles from a bonfire during the Great Vigil of Easter at the Memorial Church. Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
29 June 4, 2009. Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis sounds his trumpet at Harvard’s 358th Commencement Morning Exercises before receiving his honorary degree. Photo by Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
30 Nov. 4, 2008. Sara Stern ’12 (holding laptop) joins students from the Harvard Black Students Association and the Black Pre-Law Association inside the Queen’s Head Pub to watch the election results from the presidential race between John McCain and Barack Obama. Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
31 Dec. 4, 2009. Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (left), Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and African American Studies, and Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, listen as Du Bois Medal recipients are introduced at a ceremony at the Harvard Kennedy School. The Du Bois Institute awards these medals to individuals whose work has contributed significantly to African and African-American culture. Photo by Jill Foley
32 Dec. 4, 2009. Vernon E. Jordan Jr. accepts his Du Bois Medal at a ceremony at the Harvard Kennedy School. Henry Louis Gates Jr. (right), Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, helped present the awards, which are given to individuals whose work has contributed significantly to African and African-American culture. Photo by Jill Foley
33 Nov. 6, 2000. Harvard Medical School Faculty Associate Dean for Student Affairs Alvin Poussaint (left) and movie director Spike Lee listen to cultural and jazz critic Stanley Crouch speak during a discussion at the Harvard Kennedy School about Lee’s movie “Bamboozled” and race in the media. Photo by Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer
34 July 24, 2009. Harvard Medical School (HMS) students and faculty meet with and question HMS alumnus Robert Satcher about his upcoming space shuttle flight. Photo by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
35 Dec. 4, 2009. Amber James ’11 rehearses for the Kuumba Singers of Harvard College winter concert inside the Memorial Church: “The songs we sing and the dances we do and the poems we read, they are all designed to bring people together in celebration of black creativity and spirituality. The concert is so moving because of the range of emotions that are represented in music from the black diaspora. Pain, sorrow, strength, resilience, peace, joy, love, and countless others are all intensely felt through the music and movements.” Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
36 Evelynn M. Hammonds, dean of Harvard College, offers an official welcome to the families of the Class of 2014 inside Sanders Theatre. Hammonds began her tenure as dean of Harvard College on June 1, 2008 and is the first African-American woman to be appointed to that position. The late Archie Epps (1937-2003) was named assistant dean of Harvard College in 1964. He served as dean of students from 1971 to 1999 and was one of the first high-ranking African-American administrators at Harvard.
37 March 19, 2005. Graduate students Cameron Leader-Picone (from left), Julia Faisst, and Sheldon Bond enjoy “Unveiling the Life and Legacy of Harriet Wilson” inside the Barker Center’s Thompson Room. Wilson was thought to have disappeared from the historical record not long after her novel was published, but scholarly research reveals that she lived for almost 40 more years. Photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
38 Dec. 10, 2008. Ingrid Monson (left), Quincy Jones Professor of African-American Music, dances with Oumou Sangare, Mali’s great diva and champion of women’s rights, during a special performance at the Harvard Kennedy School forum “Sixty Years of Human Rights.” Photo by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
39 Feb. 6, 1990. The Harvard Law Review elected Barack Obama as the first black president in its 104-year history on Feb 5, 1990. The job was considered to be the highest student position at Harvard Law School. Here, Obama stands outside Austin Hall the day after the announcement. Photo by Joe Wrinn
40 Sept. 17, 2005. The Hon. Barack H. Obama, HLS ’91, U.S. senator for Illinois, gives the keynote address, “Celebrating the Achievements of Black Alumni,” at the Harvard Law School Association Award Luncheon. Photo by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer