Black History Month is celebrated every year from February 1-March 1 in the United States & Canada. Did you know that Black History Month is also celebrated in other countries around the world like the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Netherlands?  They celebrate Black History Month in October but the mission is the same.  In America, it is a month to remember that Black history is American history and to acknowledge the important contributions made by Black Americans in shaping the history and culture of America.  If you’re looking for more in-depth study of Black History check out our downloadable Black History Month Unboxed lesson. In it you’ll find a detailed booklist highlighting Black writers, recipes, and learn about the lives of 24 influential Black Americans.

How Did Black History Month start? 

Black History Month started as “Negro History Week” in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, known as the “father of Black History” who established the field of African American Studies. He established Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, later renamed as Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH) with the goal of “asking the public to extend their study of Black history, not to create a new tradition.” He chose February for the week long celebration because both President Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass were born in that mouth, and Woodson wanted to capitalize on the celebrations already occurring. By the 1960’s, spurred on by the Civil Rights Movement, Negro History Week was celebrated across the country.  It eventually evolved into a month long celebration and in 1976, President Gerald Ford acknowledged the celebration and asked all Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Congress passed Black History Month into law in 1986 with the goal of making people “aware of [the] struggle for freedom and equal opportunity.”

Why Do We Still Need a Black History Month?

Black History Month is an opportunity to spotlight Black Americans and their contributions, experiences, struggles, and triumphs that have largely been ignored when teaching American history. It’s an opportunity to learn about and honor the scientists, artists, writers, activists, politicians, and all of the people who have shaped America, created many of the innovations we use today, and shared their knowledge and discoveries with the world. Centering these stories for an entire month brings Black History to the forefront and showcases its impact while also allowing for in-depth study.

Resources for Teaching:

Start by visiting the Black History Month website to view information on online and in-person exhibitions at the Smithsonian museums and find teaching resources.

The Center for Racial Justice In Education has an extensive Black History Month Resource Guide for Educators and Families. Here you’ll find tons of amazing resources for teaching Black history in the classroom including lesson plans, book lists, and think pieces. Plus lots of resources for parents to bring Black history into their families including books, ideas for celebrations, and tips for talking with your children about Black History Month.

National Geographic Kids shares a short article on the history of Black History Month with opportunities for further exploration and photos.

Learn more about Carter G. Woodson from the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Children’s Books to Celebrate Black History from PBS Kids.

 

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