As many of you know, February is officially Black History Month across the U.S.
The month acknowledges and celebrates the achievements of African Americans throughout our history.
It’s also an opportunity to have honest conversations about how African Americans are supported and celebrated throughout our communities.
There are many ways to get involved, increase your awareness of the contributions of some incredible people, and educate yourself about Black history across our country.
Keep reading to find out more.
How Did Black History Month Start?
As a response to the lack of information publicly available on Black people and their achievements, historian Carter G. Woodson co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915.
It wasn’t until 1926 that the group decided to officially recognize and honor the contributions of African Americans throughout U.S. history with ‘Negro History Week’. Celebrated in the second week of February, the week started a movement where Black history began to be formally studied and included in educational textbooks.
Fifty years later, in 1976, the week was officially extended to become ‘Black History Month’ by president Gerald Ford to “honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Black History Month has been celebrated every February since.
Why Do We Celebrate Black History Month?
In recent years, when celebrating Black History Month has become a vital part of our school and workplace education, it might be hard to believe there was a time when the accomplishments of African Americans weren’t documented, acknowledged, or recognized.
Black History Month was created to correct this lack of educational resources and provide opportunities for educators working with all age groups to grow their knowledge, understanding, and recognition of Black people from all periods of U.S. history.
From enslaved people brought over from Africa in the early 17th century to contemporary African Americans alive today, the month is a chance to address gaps in our awareness and turn our attention to other ways to celebrate and support Black communities.
Many notable figures are acknowledged throughout this month, including
- Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought for equal rights during the 1950s and ’60s.
- Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American justice appointed to the Supreme Court.
- Mae Jemison, the first female African-American astronaut to travel to space in 1992.
- Barack Obama, the first-ever African-American President of the United States.
Black History Month in 2023: A Growing Importance
While Black History Month began in the U.S., other countries have joined in the campaign, creating their own Black History Month celebrations. This includes Canada and the United Kingdom.
As the ways we support and show up for each other as a society evolve, so has Black History Month. As well as celebrating the history of African Americans, the month also looks ahead to the future and how we can keep creating space, showing support, and moving toward better equality.
6 Great Ways to Get Involved
There are many ways to get involved and show your support throughout the month – and take this opportunity to increase your awareness and education.
Below are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Explore the Black History Month website: There are heaps of great resources online at the Black History Month website, including a calendar of exhibitions, talks, and events you can join.
- Join an Online Book Discussion: On the 9th of February, The National Portrait Gallery and DC public Library are hosting Art AfterWords: A Book Discussion. This online event includes a robust conversation about gender, social movements, and protest music.
- Check Out Some African American Folk Music: On the 23rd of February, the Library of Congress is hosting Live! At the Library: African American Folk Music, a free conversation and live music with Jake Blount, a gifted musician and scholar of Black American music.
- Learn about the African American Pioneers of Science: Black Americans have contributed to the progress of science and our society in many vibrant ways. Discover the scientists, engineers, and inventors who’ve made a powerful difference.
- Hold a Film Screening: Why not get your school, friends, or community together and host a film screening of a movie that highlights the ways Black Americans have contributed throughout history. (Check out our post here for some inspiration!).
- Look to the Future: It’s just as important to think about the future as it is about our past, and one way we can do that is by asking ourselves how diverse our networks are. How many Black American creators and businesses do you support? What accounts are you following on social media? How can you focus on growing your own inclusion and equality education all year round?
How Will You Celebrate Black History Month?
We’d love to hear how you and your friends, school, or workplace acknowledge and celebrate Black History Month.
Got an event happening? A movie screening or book club? Or simply doing something different to raise awareness and education?
Let us know in the comments below or via email and we’ll showcase some of our favorites on socials!
However you choose to acknowledge this month, we hope you make time for it and remember to be kind, respectful, and supportive to all – always.