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Black History Month? There’s An App For That

Black_History_App.jpg

An image from the North Carolina State University's new Black History Month app.

CREDIT: North Carolina State University Libraries

Librarians at North Carolina State University have developed a new way for students to interact with their university’s own black history in honor of Black History Month–through a smartphone app.

Inspired by the success of Black History Month tours of the university led by faculty members, the university’s library staff created an interactive app that allows students to learn about the history of black Americans on their campus.

“We plan to offer live tours each year, but we wanted to develop an app to put this history at your fingertips,” Marian Fragola, the school’s Libraries outreach director, said in a release.

The app uses GPS locators to display audio and photos—along with a tour map and list of important events in the campus’ history—to inform students of historically significant events.

Sites featured in the app include the hall where the first African American students took classes at the university in 1953, the street where students marched for integration in 1963, and the tunnel where racist epitaphs were painted as graffiti in 2010. The events span from the beginning of the modern Civil Right Movement in the 1950’s to the present.

Outside the tennis courts, app users can read about Irwin Holmes—the first African American to graduate from the school—and the history of his activism:

The electrical engineering student played collegiate tennis and served as co-captain of the university’s first integrated athletic team.

While traveling with the team, Holmes encountered Jim Crow laws. When a restaurant owner refused to serve a post-match meal to Holmes, he rose to walk outside.

“The whole team got up and left with him,” says [African American cultural center program coordinator Toni] Thorpe, who had the opportunity to meet with Holmes over lunch about a year ago.

“We talked about how much that meant to him, and about the pressure to perform. He was featured in the New York Times. He got a job with IBM. Everyone was counting on him to create momentum for the next round of students.”

The app helps make the university's own history of the fight for civil rights open and accessible to students, while also highlight some of the issues current students still face with race relations.

Kellan Schmidt is a journalism intern with Campus Progress.

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