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Black History Month (US)

Authored by British Online Archives
Published on 9th February, 2022 2 min read

Black History Month (US)

A poster for Black History Month.

“History is a people’s memory, and without a memory, man is demoted to the lower animals.” – Malcolm X

This February marks Black History Month in the United States. Black History Month is an annual observance that officially began in 1970, however its origins date back to 1926. In February 1926 historian Carter Woodson created the  "Negro History Week" as a way of recognising the contributions of African Americans to American history. Woodson believed that the teaching of black history was vital for the survival of a race within broader society. Over the years “Negro History Week” grew in popularity and eventually transitioned into a month of celebration in the 1970s. The month of February was chosen to coincide with the birthday of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. 

Every year there is a new theme for Black History Month, last year’s theme was centered around “The Black Family”, whereas the 2022 theme focuses on the importance of Black Health and Wellness. The theme aims to acknowledge Black scholars, medical practitioners, as well as acknowledging traditional activities and rituals amongst the African diaspora. According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), “Black communities must look to the past to provide the light for our future, by embracing the rituals, traditions and healing modalities of our ancestors. These ways of knowing require a decolonisation of thought and practice”.  

The yearly themes are vital in moving away from the narrative that Black history in America is just stories about slavery and racism. They provide an opportunity to spotlight Black achievement in all aspects of American society and further explore how modern America was built. With this in mind, Karyn Parsons maintained: 

“Black history isn’t a separate history. This is all of our history, this is American history, and we need to understand that.”

When it comes to special months, like this, sometimes they can be viewed separate from the mainstream history of a country. However, it is important to acknowledge that there is no American history without African American history. 

This month is all about honouring the contributions and legacy of African Americans across American history and society. It is about amplifying Black voices, not only in the past, but the present and also creating a safe space for the future. While it is a month of celebration, it is also a month of reflection, a time to reflect on the systemic racism that still persists in America and see what can be done.

Authored by British Online Archives

British Online Archives

British Online Archives provides unique collections of primary source documents for students and researchers studying the Humanities and Social Sciences.

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The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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