It’s not an understatement to describe the events of the past year as historic, and particularly for Black Americans. We began the year with a COVID-19 pandemic that hit us harder than any other group of Americans and exposed the systemic inequities still at the root of the nation’s institutions. We ended the year with the first black (& female) being voted in as Vice President.
The origin of Black History Month dates back to 1925, when historian and founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, announced his idea for a nationally celebrated Negro History week to honor the numerous contributions that blacks have made to American society. Negro History Week was first celebrated the following year in February 1926 in major cities across the United States and was expanded to a month-long event in 1976, fifty years after the original Negro History Week. President Gerald R. Ford declared February Black History Month, and called on Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Dr. Woodson’s organization is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), whose mission is to preserve, promote and educate the global community about black life, history, and culture year-round. The ASALH aims to raise awareness of African Americans’ contributions to society while fighting for equality. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History works to empower black people through its education and outreach.
2021 Black History Month Theme: The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.
“The black family has been a topic of study in many disciplines—history, literature, the visual arts and film studies, sociology, anthropology, and social policy. Its representation, identity, and diversity have been reverenced, stereotyped, and vilified from the days of slavery to our own time. The black family knows no single location since family reunions and genetic-ancestry searches testify to the spread of family members across states, nations, and continents. Not only are individual black families diasporic, but Africa and the diaspora itself have been long portrayed as the black family at large.”
Ways to Honor Black History Month
Black History Month runs all through February and television is taking part in celebrating Black voices and stories across film, television, politics, sports and more. Many institutions, including the ASAALH and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, offer virtual experiences for those celebrating at home. PBS is running a series on 28 Black History Makers in 28 Days for the month of February. Join the Urban Park Rangers for a series of distanced outdoor events in New York’s Central Park that will explore the city’s Black history. Visit a Black Museum. Donate time or money to the ASALH, the NAACP legal defense fund, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the African American Experience Fund (A division of the National Park Foundation,) Black Girls Code or other worthy cause.
One of the best things we can do is educate ourselves & children on the achievements of Black Americans and the important role Black people have played in this country’s history.
Suggested blog: How Travel Changes Who You Are.