Kids Explain Black History Month
How to Celebrate Black History Month
Black History Month, also called African American History Month, is celebrated in February every year. Though Black culture and history are best celebrated all year round, taking February as a time of special acknowledgement, remembrance, and appreciation can deepen your respect and connection to this unique community.
You can celebrate Black History Month by reading a book by a prominent Black author, listening to African American music from jazz to rap, and watching films centered on Black actors or cultural experiences. Head to local museums or colleges to take in Black History Month lectures and exhibitions. Read up on current issues facing the Black community, looking at articles from different viewpoints to form your own beliefs.For ways to celebrate with your community and throughout the rest of the year, read on!
Learning about Black Art and Culture
Read books or poems by African American authors.Black writers past and present have written beautiful, ground-breaking works that illuminate struggles and triumphs in the Black community and in their own lives. Make a goal to read at least 1 work by a Black writer this month, or challenge yourself with 1 book a week.
- You can enjoy classic works by W.E.B. DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, and poet Langston Hughes.
- For more modern Black authors, check out books by Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Octavia Butler, and Alice Walker.
- For modern poetry, read the works of celebrated African American poets like Maya Angelou and Gwendolyn Brooks.
Listen to African American music throughout February.You can focus on one genre or period of African American music, or go on a historical tour. Start with spiritual music sung by slaves, then check out ragtime, the blues, and jazz. Play some gospel and rap and notice the way the different genres contrast and play off of each other.
- African American music has had an enormous influence on music in the US and across the globe. Challenge yourself to listen for the elements of rap, hip-hop, and jazz that are often intertwined into other genres as well.
- Listen to revolutionary Black performers from the 20th century, such as Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong.
- Check out influential contemporary artists as well, like Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z, and Alicia Keys. For contemporary gospel, listen to Alexis Spight, Geoffrey Golden, and Jekalyn Carr.
Watch films and shows featuring African American actors and directors.Stream, rent, or buy films centered on African Americans and have a movie marathon with friends. You can also spread the films out and watch a new one every day.
- You can try older films to get an appreciation for famous, classic actors like Sidney Poitier and Hattie McDaniel.
- You can also watch contemporary movies featuring stars like Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Halle Berry, and Octavia Spencer.
- Watch the movies with a critical eye. Ask yourself if the characters are represented uniquely and truthfully, and see whether the movies fall back on stereotypes or spin off of them.
Read essays and watch online talks about African American history.You don’t have to read full books to engage with African American artists. Go online and look up “TED talks with black speakers” to watch short, enlightening videos by Black thinkers. Explore major newspapers and magazines and look for articles by prominent Black writers.
- TED Talks offer straightforward opinions and analyses from thinkers all over the globe. Check out their channel on YouTube or on their website to watch talks by Black speakers.
- Read essays on race, culture and life by celebrated contemporary Black writers like Zadie Smith and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
- You can also listen to influential speeches from Black leaders, or read transcripts of them.
Check out African American art from all eras.Black visual artists have been making waves in the art world for years, with many using their medium to make striking statements about race or history. Search online for Black artists past and present and spend a few minutes each day looking at different works.
- Ask yourself what messages you see being portrayed, and why the artist made certain stylistic choices. For an even deeper look into what drives the artist, Google them and read a quick biography.
- Check out contemporary works by Hank Willis Thomas, Kara Walker, Kehinde Wiley, Jennifer Packer, and Nina Chanel Abney.
- You can also look at artists from past decades, including Lois Mailou Jones, Edmonia Lewis, and Edward Mitchell Bannister.
Tune in to African American history specials on TV.Channels like TV One, BET, PBS and the History Channel often celebrate Black History Month by showing documentaries, shows, and movies about various aspects of Black culture and history.
- You can search for “Black History Month TV specials” online to get a general list of things to watch.
- For more detailed schedules, go to the channel’s website look at their monthly schedule.
Support African American non-profits and businesses.Donate to Black non-profit organizations this month, or try out Black-owned businesses you haven’t been to before. You can also learn about contemporary and past Black entrepreneurs to broaden your understanding and appreciation.
- You can use an app like Official Black Wall Street to locate Black-owned businesses near you. Try out a new restaurant, retailer, or other business this month.
- Search online to find African American non-profits. Some organizations to consider include Black Girls Code, SisterLove, 100 Black Men of America, and the National Society of Black Engineers.
- Look up notable Black entrepreneurs like Madam C.J. Walker, Reginald Lewis, and Daymond John.
Research Black achievement in science.African Americans have overcome numerous obstacles in the American educational system to make major contributions in the fields of math and science. Go to your local library and look for books on Black scientists, or do some research online to learn more about their achievements.
- You could also watch movies about Black scientists, such as “Hidden Figures,” which tells the story of Black female engineers and supervisors at NASA in the 1960s.
- You could learn more about people like Daniel Hale Williams, who performed the first successful open heart surgery, William Warrick Cardozo, who proved that sickle cell anemia is an inherited condition, and Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space.
Learn about Black political leaders.Though African Americans are holding more and more political positions each year, they are still a minority in most areas of government. Learning about why this is, and researching current Black leaders and politicians, can help you appreciate their struggles all the more.
- As of 2019, there are a record 49 Black members of Congress.
- Black politicians and leaders you might want to learn more about include Shirley Chisholm, the first African American congresswoman, Pinckney Pinchback, the first African American governor, and Barack Obama, the first Black president.
Watch and appreciate Black excellence in athletics.You’ve probably heard of many of the most famous Black athletes, so take this opportunity to learn about them in greater depth. Watch some of their games or competitions, read books about them, or even watch documentaries about their stories.
- Historical Black athletes you could learn more about include Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, and Jesse Owens.
- If you want to learn more about Black athletes still playing, look up people like Serena Williams, LeBron James, and Simone Biles.
Going to Black History Month Events
Head to a museum or gallery exhibit about African American history.Museums across America celebrate African American History Month with special exhibits on different aspects of Black history and art. Seeing historical objects or artworks in person is a hands-on way to learn about African American heritage and culture.
- Choose a local museum to see how African Americans have contributed to your community.
- You can also go to a local art gallery or museum that’s featuring work by African American artists.
- If you have the funds and time to plan, consider traveling to Washington, D.C., to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture as well as the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial.
Attend lectures on Black culture if you can.Local universities and museums often celebrate Black History Month by inviting prominent speakers to talk about African American culture and history. To find a talk near you, search online for “Black history month local lectures.”
- Do a bit of background research into the speaker before going to a lecture. Get an idea of what they’ll talk about, then listen closely as they speak. At the end, ask the speaker about something that puzzled or interested you.
- Talks might also be hosted by local African American groups.
- These talks and lectures are typically free and open to the public.
Look for local events to celebrate the month with others.Most big cities host events for Black History Month, including film screenings, parades, performances, and conferences. Search “local Black History Month events” online to see what celebrations are being held near you.
- Atlanta, for example, has hosted a Black History Month Parade every year since 2012.
- New York City typically holds conferences on many topics, including Black Lives Matter and Black sexuality and gender.
- Look for events that push your boundaries and teach you something new. Go in with an open, curious mindset and delve into your own feelings and reactions to the things you hear.
Organize your own event if your area doesn’t have one.If you don’t have much time to plan, simply host a small get-together at your home. If you’re planning a few months in advance, reach out to your local college, library, or city government to plan a larger celebration, like a parade, lecture, or film screening.
- If you’re celebrating at your house, you could show a film that speaks about African American history. Make time to talk about the movie afterwards, and the issues it brings up.
- You could also host a book club. Have everyone read a short book by an African American author, then get together to talk about it one night over food and drinks.
Participate in Black History Month activities at school.If you’re in school, ask your teachers or administrators what activities or assignments are planned for Black History Month. Ask how you can get more involved or if you can even plan an activity yourself.
- You might ask if you can show a film, invite a speaker to your school, or even give an in-class presentation of your own on some aspect of Black history or culture.
- If you’re a parent, you can encourage your child to get involved, or ask the school if you can volunteer to help run different events.
Engaging with Black History and Heritage
Learn about the history of Black people in the US.Though reading about history might seem dry, it can actually be fascinating when you’re outside of a classroom, choosing your topics and material for yourself. Make a point of filling the gaps in your knowledge about African American history.
- You can focus on a particular area of interest, or start at the beginning of the country and go through the eras of slavery, emancipation, Jim Crow laws, and the civil rights movement up to the present day.
- You can watch documentaries or read nonfiction historical books. Look for topics that you’re less familiar with, or that you’ve always wanted to know more about.
- You can also go online and run a general search for “African American history.” Look for sites from educators, museums, newspapers, or the government.
Read up on less well-known African American historical figures.You’ve probably heard of the most famous, revolutionary Black figures, but there are many unsung heroes as well. Browse the internet and your local library for sites and books about these lesser-known figures to broaden your perspective and appreciation.
- Consider learning about figures like the 18th century poet Phillis Wheatley; Madam C.J. Walker, the first female American self-made millionaire; and Lewis Howard Latimer, inventor of the carbon filament light bulb.
- If you’d like to pursue an interest in a well-known Black figure, look for biographies that delve deeper than what’s commonly known.
Learn about current issues faced by the African American community.African Americans and activists continue to push for solutions to current problems plaguing the African American community and the country as a whole. Try to read about these topics from a variety or viewpoints, and keep an open mind as you do so.
- Some issues to read up about include criminal justice reform, racial bias, and income inequality.
- Remember that not everyone has the same opinion, and that approaching the issues from all sides will help you make informed, empathetic decisions.
Continue learning about Black history and culture throughout the year.As many have pointed out, it’s not enough to celebrate African American culture and history once a year. Use Black History Month as the spark that leads you to actively seek out and explore African American culture and history all year round.
- For example, you could make a goal to stay informed by reading news and opinion pieces about the Black community and the issues facing it.
- See which films are coming out this year that feature Black actors or stories about Black people. Mark their release dates on your calendar so you don’t miss them.
- Always challenge yourself to question what stories are highlighted in the history you know. Ask yourself who might be left out and actively seek out their stories.
- Remember that not everyone supports Black History Month and be sensitive to other opinions. Don’t force anyone to celebrate if they don’t want to. Instead, have a conversation about your different viewpoints and challenge yourself to acknowledge and respect their point of view, even if you don’t agree with it.
Video: Really? Why are we Celebrating Black History Month - Carter G Woodson
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