Where Are the Black Pioneers On Wikipedia? A Black History Month Edit-A-Thon Will Fill The Gaps

January 30, 2015  |  

Black history is filled with a myriad of extraordinary men and women of color besides the MLK and Malcolm X. But if you checked out Wikipedia, you wouldn’t know it. That’s why the Schomburg Center, New York Public Library’s hub for Black culture, is launching the Black Life Matters Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon, Fast Company reports.

Where is the Wikipedia article on Roi Ottley — FastCo wondered — a Harlem-born journalist known to be the first Black American war correspondent for a major news brand? And what about Maritcha Lyons? Born in the 1840s, she challenged the legal system for the right to attend high school. She eventually became the first African-American to ever graduate, FastCo said. Does she not deserve a Wikipedia page, too?

The paltry information about Black American leaders on Wikipedia is disheartening and Maira Liriano, associate chief librarian of the Schomburg Center for Research in Back Culture, is determined to change that:

“The omission of black people and black history makes it seem like it’s not important. Wikipedia is the go-to place for information, especially for young people who were born in the digital age. It’s what they seek out. So even if they do a Google search and there is information about somebody or something online, they look for Wikipedia. The existence of an entry on Wikipedia gives it weight. It’s kind of like ‘Oh, it’s on Wikipedia? Then it’s important,'” Liriano said.

Part of the problem, Liriano says, is that Wikipedia — a publicly-editable resource — lacks contributors who write about black culture and history. And that’s where the Black Lives Matter Edit-a-Thon comes in. As part of Black History Month, the Schomburg staff plans to train volunteers on how to work Wikipedia — and then set ’em free to write about the rich, resonant Black history we all know and love.

“Black life matters, and one way you can demonstrate that is by having a really strong presence in Wikipedia and having a voice,” Liriano says. “It’s a two-fold endeavor: having the entries there to inform people as well as giving people the skills to edit so that as time goes on people of color have those skills to contribute to Wikipedia,” Liriano added.

You, too, can participate in the Black Life Matters Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon. It’s on February 7th at the Schomburg Center for Reseach in Black Culture, and best of all, it’s free! Click here for details.

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