Setting the Stage for Black History Month

By Sabrina Völz

Pho­to Cred­it: “Woman holds up sign at the Black Lives Mat­ter protest in Wash­ing­ton DC  6/6/2020” by Clay Banks

It’s that time of year again. Feb­ru­ary 1 marks the begin­ning of Black His­to­ry Month. Before I sug­gest some use­ful resources, let’s briefly look at its origins.

Fact 1: The Unit­ed States is not the only coun­try to offi­cial­ly cel­e­brate it. In addi­tion to our neigh­bors to the North, who also cel­e­brate this time of remem­brance in Feb­ru­ary, the Irish and the Unit­ed King­dom observe Black His­to­ry Month in October.

Fact 2: The roots of Black His­to­ry Month in the U.S. can be traced back to his­to­ri­an Carter G. Wood­son and the Asso­ci­a­tion for the Study of Negro Life and His­to­ry, who togeth­er marked the sec­ond week of Feb­ru­ary – which coin­cides with Abra­ham Lincoln’s birth­day – as Negro his­to­ry week in 1926.

Fact 3: Even the Great Eman­ci­pa­tor had his fail­ures, and so it’s undoubt­ed­ly best that in 1969 stu­dents at Kent State moved to cel­e­brate the con­tri­bu­tions and cul­ture of Black Amer­i­cans for an entire month, instead of plac­ing Pres­i­dent Lin­coln, who upheld the mass pub­lic hang­ing of 38 Dako­ta Sioux on Decem­ber 26, 1862, in the cen­ter of their celebrations.

So, if your school has nev­er cel­e­brat­ed Black His­to­ry Month before, it’s nev­er too late to get on that ‘soul train’. And since we didn’t want to leave you in the lurch, we’ve pro­vid­ed a list of some suit­able blogs we’ve pub­lished over the years on sub­jects, rang­ing from cul­tur­al icons, such as Aretha Franklin, Don Cor­nelius, and Bey­on­cé, to best books and fab­u­lous films deal­ing with Black iden­ti­ty and his­to­ry. You’ll also find infor­ma­tion on some cur­rent controversies:

And if you’d like to do a larg­er, inter­dis­ci­pli­nary project, the Cen­ter for Racial Jus­tice Edu­ca­tion has every­thing you’ll need. Such a project doesn’t just have to take place in Feb­ru­ary. Black his­to­ry is Amer­i­can his­to­ry, so it can be cel­e­brat­ed all year long.

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