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First Fridays: 2.4.22

February 2022 – Black History Month

February is Black History Month! This celebration began as Negro History Week in 1926, sponsored by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). The second week of February was chosen to honor the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. As the civil rights movement grew, the celebration expanded into Black History Month on many college campuses by the 1960s, and it was officially recognized by President Ford in 1976. In this edition of First Fridays, we highlight books, films, and podcasts that discuss the lives and history of black Americans past and present.

Did you know that you can access thousands of books for FREE from your home as e-books and audiobooks using a library card and the app Libby? Libby is available in the App Store, Google Play, and from your web browser at

Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat by Patricia Williams with Jeannine Amber

You want to know about the struggle of growing up poor, black and female? Ask any girl from any hood. You want to know what it takes to rise above your circumstances when all the cards are stacked against you? Ask me.

Comedian Patricia Williams, who for years went by her street-name “Rabbit,” was born and raised in Atlanta’s most troubled neighborhood at the height of the crack epidemic.

One of five children, Pat watched as her alcoholic mother struggled to get by on charity, cons and petty crimes. At seven Pat was taught to roll drunks for money. At 12, she was targeted for sex by a man eight years her senior; by 13 she was pregnant. By 15 Pat was a mother of two. Alone at 16, Pat was determined to make a better life for her children. But with no job skills and an eighth-grade education, her options were limited. She learned quickly that hustling and humor were the only tools she had to survive.

Rabbit is an unflinching memoir of cinematic scope and unexpected humor that offers a rare glimpse into the harrowing reality of life on America’s margins, resilience, determination, and the transformative power of love.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

A powerful cultural touchstone of modern American literature, The Color Purple depicts the lives of African American women in early twentieth-century rural Georgia. Separated as girls, sisters Celie and Nettie sustain their loyalty to and hope in each other across time, distance and silence. Through a series of letters spanning twenty years, first from Celie to God, then the sisters to each other despite the unknown, the novel draws readers into its rich and memorable portrayals of Celie, Nettie, Shug Avery and Sofia and their experience. 

The Color Purple broke the silence around domestic and sexual abuse, narrating the lives of women through their pain and struggle, companionship and growth, resilience and bravery. Deeply compassionate and beautifully imagined, Alice Walker’s epic carries readers on a spirit-affirming journey towards redemption and love.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide. Her life story is told in the documentary film And Still I Rise, as seen on PBS’s American Masters.

Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.

Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.

They’ve Gotta Have Us

available via Netflix (streaming, 2018). 

Powered by candid recollections from esteemed African-American entertainers, this docuseries traces the history of Black cinema.


available free on Youtube and via Netflix (streaming, 2016). 

Combining archival footage with testimony from activists and scholars, director Ava DuVernay’s examination of the U.S. prison system looks at how the country’s history of racial inequality drives the high rate of incarceration in America.

The Humanity Archive with Jermaine Fowler

The Humanity Archive is your home for the most provocative, honest and fascinating stories from history. With the most compelling narratives and diverse conversations. This is not the history you learned in school. Available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, & more.


Resistance is a show about refusing to accept things as they are. Stories from the front lines of the movement for Black lives, told by the generation fighting for change. Hosted by Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jr. Available on Spotify.

Black Dude White Dude

Black Dude White Dude explores a wide range of topics from the differing perspectives of two best friends. Leo Cummings (Black Dude) and Todd Cate (White Dude) dive into the poignant and mundane—from race relations and raising their children to debates about who can do the most one-arm pushups (it’s Todd). Whether it’s back-and-forth banter between the two of them or in-depth conversations featuring invited guests from the central Arkansas area and beyond, Black Dude White Dude leaves listeners with food for thought and reasons to laugh out loud. Available on Apple Podcasts and more.

Kaleigh Nelles is a member of the Progress North Community Contributor Team

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