Why We Celebrate Black History Month

Celebrate seems like the wrong choice for Black History Month, after all, many people suffered and lost their lives in the quest for freedom and fairness. So, perhaps honor might be a better choice, for we should certainly honor bravery and sacrifice.

To honor Black Americans in the month of February, let’s begin by teaching our students why this occurs in a particular month. Carter G. Woodson, 1875-1950, was an American historian and journalist who founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. As the first person to recognize the contributions of African Americans to the overall American history, he famously said, “History shows that it does not matter who is in power…those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they did in the beginning.”

In 1926, he proposed the observation of National Black History Week to be held in February, chosen because it was the birth month of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. This later became known as Black History Month.

Some ideas for ways to honor Black History are:

  1. Have students spend some time each day researching heroes from black history to create a digitized
  2. Don’t just allocate the honor to one month, but instead take one day per month to watch a documentary, visit a museum, read a book by a black author.
  3. Invite African American older people into the classroom for students to interview about their experiences.
  4. Help students understand that history is rarely pretty for any country. Discuss why this is true and how it applies to black history.
  5. Hip Hop began in the 1970s in Bronx, NY, as a way for kids to rhyme and dance to beats. Trace Hip Hop from then until now and identify the ways it is still similar and how it has changed.
  6. Create a huge Civil Rights timeline that spans the length of a wall for the students to add events.
  7. Help students create a PowerPoint presentation on influential black women to share with the rest of the student body and even to send to parents.
  8. Teach a lesson on historically black colleges and universities after which they can each choose one to make a poster board with things of interest about that school.
  9. Do an investigation into businesses in America with very culturally diverse workforces. Learn more about why they value diversity in their companies and how this impacts the way they do business.
  10. Study African American artists and paint a canvas in the style of a favorite artist.

Carter G. Woodson did not attend high school until he was twenty years old because he had to help his family financially. After he graduated from the school in two years, he went on to earn two masters degrees and a doctorate from Harvard. Thanks to Carter G. Woodson and his belief that Black History should be honored, we have a worthy goal to accomplish each year.

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