Q: Why is there a Black History Month?
A: My immediate response is, why not a Black History Month? However, as I reflect more deeply, I recognize many may not be aware of the developmental origins of Black History Month in American culture. And although my response is not meant to be a comprehensive record of its beginnings, it does lead to the importance of Black History Month in today’s society and for today’s children.
Researcher, activist, historian and reformist Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) felt a great need to build on the traditions of celebrating the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass in the early 20th century. These men were honored throughout the country for their contributions advancing African American life.
Woodson recognized a need to extend these celebrations beyond the lives of these great men and into the history, research and achievements of the great people Douglass and Lincoln worked to uplift. February was a natural choice because Douglass and Lincoln were both born in February.
As time marched on, Woodson continued to advocate for extended recognition of Black contributions and achievements in all fields of study, including the sciences and civics. Many hoped the images and knowledge of Black life in America would align with historical truths and extend beyond slavery and Emancipation. This hope continues today.
The images portrayed of Black life in America often promote disparaging stereotypes and heartbreaking realities of injustice. Black History Month balances the narrative by honoring the history while promoting empathy and inclusion.
Here are a few quick tips for celebrating Black History Month:
- It’s a celebration! Begin and end with joy.
- Allow children to guide their learning. Images of a SuperSoaker, a train, peanut butter and fiber optics can lead to amazing discoveries.
- Enjoy the journey of learning together. No expertise required.