BY THE DIVERSITY STORY
Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, is an annual celebration in February of the achievements of African Americans and to recognize their central role in our communities.
Black History Month originated from 1926 by an African-American historian known as Carter G.Woodson. He started this initiative as a week long celebration appreciated all the accomplishments of African-Americans but slowly turned it into a month long celebration. He was really keen on the month being February, as 2 important figures' birthdays were in February: Frederick Douglass, an activist from the 1800’s supporting and fighting for slave rights, and Abraham Lincoln, the 16th American President who spoke out for the slaves. In 1995, the Canadian government officially recognized Black History Month and adapted as a national recognition in 1976 in the United States of America.
Every year, Black History Month has a different theme, varying in different countries as well. In the US, this year’s theme is “Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity,” focused on African diaspora and how Black families spread throughout the US. In 2020, the US theme was “African Americans and the Vote,” and the theme for 2022 will be “Black Health and Wellness.”Canada’s Black History Month theme is “The Future is Now,” described as “a chance to celebrate and acknowledge the transformative work that Black Canadians and their communities are doing now”
Ways to Celebrate:
Buy from, support, and invest in black owned businesses
Attend online events! The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has virtual events that display African American accomplishments throughout history. These events are free but require registration (on their website).
Virtually visit Black history galleries and museums - Google Arts and Culture has numerous online exhibitions, images, stories, and videos on display, free for all to visit.
Use and learn from resources, like documentaries, books, and movies (some are listed in the next section!)
Sojourner Truth: (1797-1883) A former slave who became an abolitionist as well as an advocate for civil and women’s rights, she was famous for delivering her powerful speeches, even though she never learned how to read and write. One of her most famous speeches is known as “Ain’t I a Woman?” where she argues for both African American and female equality.
Ida B. Wells: (1862-1931) She was born into slavery, but is better known as a famous muckraker (investigative journalist) and civil rights activist. She was a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People which was dedicated to combat prejudice and violence. She was extremely passionate about anti-lynching laws, and put her own life at risk while spending two months investigating lynching incidents in the south.
Martin Luther King Jr: (1929-1968) He was a Baptist minister and social activist who led the civil rights movement. His leadership was a key part of the Civil Rights Movement's success in ending legal segregation. He also used nonviolent tactics such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott or the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Although his most famous speech is the I Have A Dream speech (which spoke about a world where racial equality is achieved), it is important to look into his other works, such as Letter From Birmingham Jail (where King explains why the Civil Rights Movement needs to happen and why it can’t be done in a small forgettable way).
Oprah Winfrey: Born in January 1954, she is a popular American talk show host and philanthropist. She is the first African-American women to own a production company and is passionate about eradicating child abuse. She played a key role in the National Child Protection Act which was signed into a law in 1994. In addition, she has provided assistance to schools such as Tennessee State University and the Chicago Academy of Arts.
If you want to learn more, feel free to check out Molekfi Kete Asante’s "100 Greatest African Americans," a compilation of 100 people based on their significance to society’s progress, personal achievements and characteristics, as well as their determination for the common good for all people, whether that be socially, financially or anything in between.
Eyes on the Prize is a documentary series that tells the story of the Civil Rights era from the perspective of ordinary people whose extraordinary actions launched the American movement for racial justice. This series is available to watch on Youtube, PBS, and Amazon Prime.
I Am Not Your Negro is a documentary based on the African American playwright James Baldwin’s unfinished book. This documentary explores the realities of racism through the eyes of many prominent Black historical figures, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. I Am Not Your Negro is available to watch on Netflix.
But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women's Studies is an anthology edited by Akasha Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott, and Barbara Smith that lays out the foundations of Black feminism. This anthology examines how racial and gender discrimination have combined to shape the experiences of Black women.
“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers. Our abundance has brought us neither peace of mind nor serenity of spirit.” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The time is always right to do what is right.” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” —Barack Obama
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” —Frederick Douglass