Education has played an important role in this national holiday, starting with its precursor, Negro History Week, in 1926. Black History Month has been soundly criticized on a number of fronts, including the charge that it is racist and that the history of a race cannot and should not be relegated to a single month. However, in the spirit of George Santayana's (1863-1956) famous quote: "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it," Black History Month helps us to focus attention on several aspects of our history that we must not forget.
Stedman was in Suriname for five years. While there he kept a journal and several diaries, wrote letters, and made watercolor sketches of what he saw and what he felt about it. He used these observations to craft a more formalized account of his time there, which was published by the radical British printer, Joseph Johnson, in 1796, with engravings based on Stedman's watercolors by William Blake and Francesco Bartolozzi.
The James Ford Bell Library is fortunate to have Stedman's diaries, journals, letters, and five of his original watercolors, as well as his own copy of his handwritten manuscript produced prior to publication. We have digitized all of this material; it is freely available through the University of Minnesota Libraries' UMedia Archive: Stedman Archive. Anyone visiting the Bell Library in person also is welcome to view and use these materials for research.
The James Ford Bell Library has extensive resources in the slave trade between Europe and the Caribbean and South America, with lesser holdings related to slavery in North America prior to 1800CE.