In 1926, Carter G. Woodson, a noted African American historian, scholar, educator, and publisher started “Negro Week”. His goal was to educate and celebrate the achievements and contributions of the many African Americans who helped shape our country. He chose February to coincide with Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’s birthdays.
Over time, black communities extended the week to a month of education, celebration and exposure. In 1976 Black History Month became a national celebration in the United States. Both Canada (in February) and the United Kingdom (in October) also celebrate Black History Month.
While Black History Month honors the past, it also promotes culture, achievement and opportunity in the present. This celebration fosters many conversations towards understanding and embracing our differences.
It’s important to celebrate Black History month, but we also need to keep the conversations going throughout the year. There are so many topics to cover African American experiences and contributions, so we put together a list of “starter topics”. Pick one every so often to research and share in your next dinner conversation!
Learn and share:
- Science: Do you know about Kathryn Johnson, Mae C. Jemison or George Washington Carver? Learn more about the major contributions that have come from black scientists here.
- Authors: Love Toni Morrison and Angie Thomas? Discuss your favorite books by black authors, both historical and contemporary.
- Poets: The beautiful words of Maya Angelou are moving and are best-appreciated read aloud. She may be the most well known of poets of our time, but there are many other wonderful poets to learn about such as Langston Hughes and Phillis Wheatley.
- Art: Amy Sherald and Jacob Lawrence depict the experiences and struggles of African Americans through their paintings, sculptures and other art forms. Check out these famous black artists. Learn more about the themes and mediums found in their art.
- History: Visit a museum dedicated to the African American experience. For example, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture is an amazing place to visit (with free admission), or you can use their online resource. Or use the resources from the nation’s first slavery museum, the Whitney Plantation. Visit the museum closest to you — there is at least one museum per state!
- Music: Listen to music created and performed by black musicians. From African tribal dance to the Blues to Hip Hop, the African American experience is reflected in our contemporary music. Learn more about the history of black music and famous African American musicians.
- Food: The term “soul food” is loosely used to describe recipes that originated in the black communities of the south during the era of slavery. The recipes used what was available: “leftovers” from various animals, beans, grains and hearty greens. Today, soul food recipes can be found on tables across the country and are often “lightened up” for a healthier option.