Student Author: Makayla G.
African Americans have endured hardships throughout the centuries. From going days at a time being crammed in a boat with other African Americans, to going to a foreign land to do the work of others; they didn’t have much to call their own. Their religion and heritage were the only things they had left and they embraced it. They would worship in their own time and would sing together. The African American people did nothing to deserve what was brought upon them. Europeans, Americans, and other cultures saw them as a nuisance and as objects worth less than anyone else just because of something that they couldn’t help: their skin.
Racism still occurs all around in this world but it is a matter of personal opinion, just how it was before the 1700s and well into the 1900s. Back then, black people were forced to work long hours on plantations or to do housework just because they were property and had to do what their masters told them. But, things started to change when people started to see that this was wrong and needed to end. Now, African Americans have a whole month to acknowledge their ancestors' hardships and to celebrate their freedom. They are no longer anyone’s property nor do they have a master to whom they must answer.
Carter G. Woodson wanted to raise awareness for all of the losses the African Americans went through. He wanted people to know the truth and that would prevail over prejudice. Back then, there should have been more people like him. Everyone was created equally and should be treated the same. Woodson took a stand when he founded an organization called the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). His organization was successful in 1925, when they announced Black History Week (Pruitt). The first time it was ever celebrated was a week in February 1926 and included the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass (Pruitt). Everyone sprang up in response to the newly founded events. Teachers demanded materials to educate their students and philanthropists stepped forward to endorse the effort (Pruitt).
When Carter G. Woodson died in 1950, Black History Week had become a very important part of many African American lives and it had become more popular as more Americans began to appreciate the celebration (Pruitt). The Black Awakening in 1960 expanded the celebration dramatically. People of all colors began to celebrate this movement. In 1976, the week for Black Heritage had expanded into a month (Pruitt). President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history” (Pruitt).
50 years later, the association held the first African American History Month. Black History Month is every February and something everyone should recognize and celebrate. Black History Month not only is associated with the African Americans, but everyone else too. It does involve caucasians too because their ancestors are the ones who forced the African Americans to endure these hardships; this could lead to discovery and moments for learning for all people to end the racism that still goes on in this world today. This month allows everyone to recognize the importance of Black History in the scope of the American story. Since then, each American president has issued African American History Month proclamations. Now, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) continues to promote the study of Black History all year.
Curious how to celebrate? Here are some things you can do:
1. read a book by a black author
2. listen to or watch Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech
3. learn or read about school segregation
4. watch a black film
5. cook a soul food dish (yum!)
6. engage in healthy conversations about black culture and history on social media
7. learn about or discover an unsung hero of Black History
8. Register to vote!!! (and be thankful for your rights!) 🙂
Global Citizen. "Kids Explain Black History Month". Youtube
"Honor Black History Month". Military.com.
All research and information summarized and paraphrased from The Library of Congress’ article on African American History Month.
Mbonu, Vanessa. "28 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month". NAACP. 2019. February 1.
Pruitt, Sarah. “The Man Behind Black History Month”. History Channel. 2 February 2017.