February is a time designated to honor the historical achievements of Blacks and African Americans. If we want to teach our students/children to be socio-culturally competent anti-racists, we cannot skip out on this important celebration.
The path to Black History Month started in the 1920’s when the New Negro Movement demonstrated an increased self-confidence among African Americans due to both the recent Great Migration and the participation of African Americans in the Great War. This led to more African Americans in the North voting, the fledging NAACP lobbying for federal anti-lynching laws, and in 1926, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) declaring the second week of February as National Negro History week.
National Negro History week spurred celebrations throughout communities, but the impact was even longer lasting. For decades following the original Negro History week, mayors across the country continued to declare the 2nd week of February as Negro History week although sometimes with different nomenclature. And during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, many colleges extended the celebration to a month-long Black History Month.
In 1976, President Ford recognized that in spite of the great contributions by African Americans to our nation’s history and efforts to recognize them, as a country, we still failed to acknowledge Black History. Therefore, he declared February, for the country, as Black History Month.
President Ford asked the nation to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” His words continue to hold true, and in response, every president since has continued to recognize February as Black History Month.
What will you and your students be doing to honor contributions by African Americans during Black History Month?