How We Got Here
Black History Month (BHM) is a federally recognized, national commemoration of the contributions of people of the African Diaspora. This celebration originated in 1926 by historian and educator Carter G. Woodson, the first person born to enslaved parents to graduate from Harvard University. While BHM began as a week-long celebration, it was expanded to the full month of February in 1976 by President Gerald Ford.
Woodson chose February to honor the birthdays of prolific writer, orator, and abolitionist Frederick Douglass (whose exact birthday is unknown), and President Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation that abolished slavery in the confederate states.
3 Ways to Honor Black History Month
Here are three way to promote awareness, equity, and social change related to BHM:
- Acknowledge it: Utilize the opportunity to celebrate this federally recognized month with your students and colleagues to honor the legacy and contemporary achievements of people of the African Diaspora! Even if BHM has not previously been celebrated in your school, galvanize others around starting a new tradition!
- Celebrate: Highlight achievements and contributions, including pre-colonial history and profiles of contemporary figures your students will recognize from politics, education, pop culture, sports, or other areas. While historicizing is important, avoid focusing solely on slavery and Jim Crow. This may be isolating for African American/Black students, particularly in environments where they are the racial minority.
- Get Creative: Have fun! This is an ideal time to conceptualize out-of-the box activities and lessons to enhance engagement! Students and colleagues will appreciate the intellectual energy spent on cultural awareness.
Stay tuned for my next blog post in this two-part series that will provide three tips on what to avoid when honoring BHM.
Dr. Sierra Austin is a graduate of the Department of Women's and Gender Studies at The Ohio State University, with a focus on race and social justice. Sierra's research (done in our member district Columbus City Schools), activism, work focused on education equity and prioritizes operationalizing intersectional approaches to social change. She offers professional development through the ESC focused on equity, consultation, and community workshops.
Email Sierra to see how she can help support your school or district!