While February was officially designated Black History Month in the U.S. in 1976 and Canada in 1995, there are still a number of misconceptions about its origin and purpose.
For example, many people are under the impression that Black History Month dates back to the 1950s - 1960s civil rights movement.
Black History Month (originally Negro History Week) actually pre-dates the launch of the civil rights movement by almost 3 decades.
How Black History Month Began
In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an African-American scholar, historian, educator, author, and staunch Republican from West Virginia, started Negro History Week. Known as "the Father of Black History," Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the son of slaves, was the 2nd African-American to earn a PhD from Harvard University (in 1912). (Dr. W.E.B. Dubois was the first.)
At the time, schools didn't teach students about the contributions of Americans of African heritage. Dr. Woodson lobbied educators to expand their curriculum. As part of these efforts, in February, 1926, Negro History Week was born. (February was selected to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln.)
Goals of Black History Month
Dr. Woodson's goals were to:
- showcase the history and accomplishments of Americans with African heritage
- foster cross-cultural understanding
In 1970, Kent State University hosted the first Black History Month. In conjunction with the U.S. bi-centennial in 1976, President Gerald Ford persuaded the U.S. government to officially recognize Black History Month.
Black History Month Event Ideas
Here are 8 ideas for Black History Month events:
- Fashion Events.
Macy's is hosting Soul Era of Black Style, a series of panels and receptions showcasing the work of African-American designers of the 1970s and 1980s.
- Culinary Events.
Many restaurants have special African-American menus during Black History Month. Mansfield and Richland County has announced that Ohio State Mansfield and NC State College will be hosting the 14th Annual Soul Food Dinner.
Albuquerque, New Mexico hosts an annual Taste of Soul Week.
- Film Festivals and Events.
Films about historical events or by African-American filmmakers are great conversation starters. Chicago Urban League is hosting its 4th annual Black History Month film festival with free screenings every Tuesday.
- Theatrical Productions.
Black History Month is an ideal opportunity to produce plays by African-American playwrights. Suggestions include plays by August Wilson, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Lorraine Hansberry, and Ed Bullins.
- Black History Symposiums.
Symposiums provide an opportunity for attendees to interact with historians and scholars and learn more about the contributions of Americans of African heritage.
- Athletic Events.
Black History month is an ideal time to invite local athletes to be guests of honor at special events.
America has given the world the gift of so many musical genres. Events showcasing the history of R&B, soul music, jazz, and, for the younger crowd, rap and hip-hop add a feeling of fun to Black History Month. Let's not forget the classics including the music of African-American composer, Scott Joplin, and the classical performances of trumpeter, Wynton Marsalis and songstress Marian Anderson.
The modern and classical works of African-American dance troupes like Alvin Ailey and the Dance Theater of Harlem are a perfect fit for Black History Month. This work can be showcased through performances, panels, workshops, and exhibits.
This touring exhibit is on display at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art through March 15, 2015.
In October, Black History Month is celebrated in the UK. There are over 4,700 Black History Month events in the UK
Since February 2006, Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland has celebrated the contributions of the 300,000 to 500,000 people with African heritage in Germany.
For more tips, also consult Special Events American-Style.
Photo Credits: Maryland Government Pics