February is Black History Month, an important and valuable commemoration of the accomplishments of Black Americans. It also offers an opportunity to examine the civil rights challenges that have been overcome — and those that remain. Here is a closer look at why this period is so important.
The History of Black History Month
Black History Month was first recognized in 1969, but its roots extend earlier than that. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the second African American to get a PhD from Harvard, first began pushing for recognition of Black Americans’ achievements in the 1920s. This culminated with when he designated one week in February as Negro History Week in 1926. Recognition spread gradually, with President Gerald Ford making it a national observance in 1976. As the birth month of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, February is a natural fit to commemorate Black history.
Each year, Black History Month has a different area of emphasis. While educators and others are encouraged to focus on Black history throughout the month, the yearly theme provides added emphasis to different elements of the African American experience. Past themes have covered civil rights, Black migrations, voting rights, the March on Washington, and more.
Black History Month 2021
For 2021, the official theme of Black History Month is “The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity.” Among the many issues that will be part of this focus include the stereotyping and vilification of Black families, slavery’s impact on Black family structure, and diaspora effects. Understanding both the historic and modern-day implications of these events is important for prompting discussion and change.
At OneEighty, we recognize that there is still much to be done in ensuring that Black Americans have an equal voice in our society. This monthlong celebration provides a much-needed opportunity to reflect and strive to do better as a united community.