Black History Month has received official recognition in Canada and the United States, however, it is now spreading across the world, with the UK, Ireland, and the Netherlands getting involved. With that in mind, it is now time to reveal more about observing this month and the unique history that is behind it.
History of Black History Month
Black History Month started as a method of remembrance with regard to the vital events and people in the history of the African diaspora. Today, it is an important month of both remembrance, recognition, and education. It is a time for people of any color to look at the incredible figures in Black History, as well as raising awareness about the issues that are still present in society in terms of racism and the rights that black people are affected by. Education is at the core of Black History Month, and it is a great opportunity for people from all walks of life to broaden their horizons and expand their understanding.
While some people say that Black History Month can be traced back to “Negro History Week,” which was created by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926 alongside the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, its inspiration goes back even further than that. In the summer of 1915, Woodson traveled with many friends from his hometown of Chicago to Washington D.C. for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the emancipation of black people. They were a few of many thousands of black people who traveled across the country that summer to honor the progress that had been made since the destruction of slavery.
This event spawned a new publication, The Journal of Negro History, which Woodson began in 1916. And finally, ten years later, the predecessor to Black History Month was created.
A week in February was chosen by Woodson because he thought it was significant that it coincided with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass (14th of Feb) and Abraham Lincoln (12th of Feb), and both dates have long been celebrated in black communities for their impact on black history.
Even though the idea was formed around 50 years earlier, it was not until 1970 that Black History Month as it is known today was created. It was first proposed in 1969 at Kent State University in Ohio, USA by the Black United Students and black educators. The first celebration took place the following year and, in six years’ time, it was being celebrated across the entire country. This happened when Gerald Ford, who was President at the time, recognized Black History Month during the United States Bicentennial celebration.
During his speech, he said that Americans should:
Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history
After this, Black History Month spread to other parts of the world, with the United Kingdom first celebrating in 1987. However, in the UK, Ireland, and the Netherlands, the observance is in the month of October.
How to Observe Black History Month
There are a number of different ways that people can meaningfully celebrate Black History Month. Try out some of these interesting ideas or come up with some creative ways of your own:
Learn More About Black History
One thing that most people should be encouraged to do is find out more about black history, both in general but also in regard to the local area. Get some information on how black people originally arrived as slaves in certain areas and how they were emancipated, whether during the United States Civil War in the 1860s, the abolishment of slavery in the United Kingdom in 1833, or through other historical events.
Also, why not spend a little bit of time learning a little bit more about the unsung heroes of Black History? Do a little bit of digging to find out about members of the black community who made an effort to speak up for their people and fight for their rights. These people should be honored during Black History Month.
Visit a Black History Museum
For those who find interactive learning to be the best way to get connected, this would be a great time to visit a museum that addresses various parts of the history of black people. Can’t get there in person? That’s okay! Many of these places offer a lot of resources online as well. Try out some of these excellent museums:
- DuSable Museum of African American History. Located in Chicago, Illinois, USA, this museum is America’s oldest of its kind at more than 60 years old. In fact, the museum has been around longer than Black History Month has been!
- Museum of London: London’s Black History. Focusing on Black British history, this part of the museum offers access to archives, recordings, articles, videos and photographs including the important Windrush generation and the influence of dub reggae.
- National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Located in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, this place tells stories of courage, perseverance and cooperation of those who worked to help bring American slaves from the south into freedom in the north. With art exhibitions, education about racism and various resources online and in person, this center offers strong support to the cause.
Show Support to Black Owned Businesses
Why not purchase something from a black-owned business during Black History Month? Also, get the word out and show love for these businesses across various social media platforms. Supporting tenacious and passionate black entrepreneurs is one of the best ways to give back to the black community.
Get Involved with Various Black NonProfit Organizations
One great way to get involved and connected during Black History Month is to show support to black non-profit organizations. Examples include SisterLove, NAACP, Black Girls Code, Black Lives Matter, The Center for Black Equity, Black PAC (which organizes black voters) and many more. Check with a local chapter of one of these organizations to find out ways it is possible to get involved through volunteering, lending a voice, making a donation, educating others and much more.