On February 1, 2007, the BlackPast.org website is launched. BlackPast.org is an online reference and encyclopedia of African American history that includes biographies of both famous and lesser-known figures, timelines, full-text primary documents, and links to other resources that explore black history. Started in 2004 by UW history professor Quintard Taylor (b. 1948), it began as an online resource for University of Washington students to find short articles about African American history and events. The website soon became widely used and outgrew its spot on Professor Taylor's faculty web page. Taylor then formed BlackPast.Org, along with a nonprofit to support it.
Meeting a Need for Knowledge
Taylor, who holds the Scott and Dorothy Bullitt Chair of American History, first began to see the need for an online resource for African American history in 2004. Along with his teaching assistant, George Tamblyn, he put together the same resources he taught in class. Biographies, timelines, and links to other sites that provided resources for African American history.
In 2004, Taylor received an email from Anna Griffiths, a young student who was using the website for research. She wondered if Taylor might be able to respond to some questions she had. Taylor asked her if she'd like to meet in his office, and the next day she wrote back to decline; she lived in New Zealand. Taylor immediately saw that the site was being accessed by far more people than the students in his class.
Growing and Thriving
BlackPast.org features essays that range from well-known (i.e., Martin Luther King Jr. or the Tuskegee Airmen) to the more unfamiliar (such as James Chase, the first African American mayor of Spokane). Timelines of important historical events and original speeches from influential African Americans are included, as well as descriptions of less-explored events that affected African Americans.
By October 1, 2005, five volunteers were running BlackPast.org. In 2006, they began tracking visitors and saw they were getting thousands of hits per day. On February 1, 2007, the content was taken off the faculty page and was given a more permanent home on BlackPast.org. Initially, 600 entries, 90 speeches, 80 full-text primary documents, and seven major timelines were posted. The organization achieved nonprofit status (501(c)(3) Status) on March 28, 2008.
By 2012, the site had received 10 million unique visitors. It includes some 10,000 pages. Short essays have been contributed by 500 volunteers on people and events in black history. Currently (2012), 12 volunteers run the BlackPast.org.