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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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