Celebrating Black History in February and Beyond

Of General Concern | Claudia Rojas | February 27, 2016

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Black History Month falls on the shortest month of the year, but this is because it was originally a one week kind of thing.

The Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum in Florida honors the man by the same name who’s responsible for Black History Month’s origins: Dr. Carter G. Woodson. He was born in Virginia in 1875, and two years after graduating from Harvard University in 1912, his interest in Black History grew at the realization that his people’s history wasn’t being told.

(C.C. 2.0)

Woodson initiated Negro History Week in February 1926 to complement Abraham Lincoln’s February 12th birthday and Frederick’s Douglas assumed February 14th birthday. By 1976, the celebration was extended to an entire month in Woodson’s honor.

Black History Month is celebrated in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom, among other countries.

In the U.S., some people have strong convictions that one designated month to celebrate Black History encourages schools to forget Black history in other months. Other people find the month racist because there isn’t a White History Month. Though these are are valid concerns, they undermine the spirit of heritage and significance that Black History Month holds for a people whose ancestors didn’t have rights to the knowledge of their own birthday.black_history_1

Black History Month is an opportunity to reflect on how far America and African Americans have come, and how much further society has to go.

Following are notable events and moments that took place during Black History Month.

Black History Month 2016

Michelle Obama Hosts Dance Party

(CC BY-ND 2.0)

February 8- FLOTUS invites 51 “remarkable young performers” to an all-girls dance event at the White House to learn from experienced dancers and showcase their own talent.

New Photograph of Frederick Douglass Uncovered

February 18- Last year, the Rochester Public Library found a photograph of Douglass taken in 1873. Researchers have now confirmed the picture is new, and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren has now shown the public the latest Douglass photo.

President Obama Flatters Michelle

February 18- President Obama and Michelle Obama host a Black History Month Reception. President Obama opens with “we know it’s Black History Month when someone calls out ‘Heyyy, Michelle, girlll, you look so good.’”

“African-American culture has profoundly shaped American culture, in music and art, literature and sports.” – The White House

#ObamaAndKids trends on twitter

February 20- Twitter users started sharing pics and built a gallery of photos of President Obama spending time with the nation’s kids.

106 Year Old Momma Throws Some Moves

February 21- Virginia McLaurin, a survivor of Southern segregation, surprises the President and First Lady with a burst of energy and a few dance moves.

Image via ABC 7 News
Image via ABC 7 News

HS Students Stand Up Against Stereotypes

February 23- Students at Lowell High School in San Francisco walked out of school to protest a poster a classmate had made that stereotyped Blacks.

National Geography Highlights First Man to North Pole

February 24- National Geography promotes photographs of Matthew Henson, the first man (and Black man) believed to have reached the North Pole, or a close proximity, in 1909.

GMU Professor, Keith Clark, at Anacostia Community Museum

February 28- Dr. Keith Clark, who teaches African American Literature at George Mason, will be in DC, hosting a talk and book signing of his book, The Radical Fiction of Ann Petry. Dr. Clark is currently working on another critical analysis book, this time on Ernest J. Gaines.

How to Celebrate Beyond February

So you want to celebrate Black History year-round instead of one month? Celebrate actively:

Arna Bontemps African American Museum (CC by-SA 3.0)

Visit a Museum

There are several museums dedicated to Black History education and other museums often hold temporary exhibitions year round to honor all Americans.

Watch a Film

Though the Academy Awards continue to refuse Black actors their due honors, there are old and new and history-rich films that audiences can watch. These films star some very charismatic, talented Black actors.

  • Gone with the Wind (1939) – Romance/drama set in the Civil War South
  • Ethnic Notions (1986) – Documentary tracing the origins of stereotypes against Blacks
  • Do the Right Thing (1989) – Drama/comedy capturing 20th century racial tensions in NY
  • Remember the Titans (2000) – Biography/drama based on a 1971 HS football team in VA
  • Selma (2014) – Biography/drama follows Dr. King and his 1965 protest

Read Literature

One of the best exposures to Black history is to read literature or sign-up for an African American literature course at George Mason. These are some great places to start:

These suggestions are not exhaustive in the least bit. Add your own suggestions in the comment section!


*These works are discussed in courses taught by Professor Clark.

Featured Image: (Bureau of Labor Statistics)