Historian, author and journalist Carter G. Woodson earned a master's degree from the University of Chicago and later a Ph.D. from Harvard University and recognized that African Americans were largely absent from official stories of United States history. Setting out to change that, Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915, which would later be called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. The organization would go on to promote the study of black history and celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans.
Moorland and Woodson's work would help set the course for Black History Month. Through ASAALH they launched "Negro History Week" in 1926. The second week in February was chosen because it was the birthday week of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, two instrumental figures in African American history. It would be 1976 before Black History Month was recognized as a national observance, though many colleges and universities began commemorating the event during the American civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Black History Month is widely celebrated now, and often provides educators with pivotal teaching moments. There are many different ways to celebrate Black History Month.
1. Businesses can invite black field experts to come speak to employees about topics relevant to their specific workplaces.
2. Organizations that find they are lacking in diversity and inclusion practices can reevaluate recruiting, interviewing and diversity protocols.
3. People can plan a trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the Smithsonian-run National Museum of African American History & Culture. Museum directors note it is filled with artifacts that can help any American better understand history through an African American lens.
4. Support black-owned businesses in the area or donate to a black organization.
5. Cook a special meal with the family and discuss African American history over dinner.
6. Support a charity that has a mission of improving racial justice, like Color of Change.
7. Read or reread Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" or his "I Have a Dream Speech."
8. Watch the film "Hidden Figures"or read the book on which it was based. The book highlights the accomplishments of three black female scientists working at NASA during the Civil Rights era.
9. Focus this month's book club choice on a black author.
10. Study the biography of any influential black figure from the past or the present.
Throughout February, individuals can support African American culture, history and causes in many meaningful ways.