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Black History Month 2022

February is Black History Month in the U.S., and this year's theme is Black Health and Wellness. NPR has compiled a list of stories, music performances, podcasts and other content that chronicles the Black American experience.

Here's the story behind Black History Month — and why it's celebrated in February

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At the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963, African Americans carry placards demanding equal rights, integrated schools, decent housing and an end to bias. Warren K Leffler/Universal History Archive/Getty Images hide caption

At the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963, African Americans carry placards demanding equal rights, integrated schools, decent housing and an end to bias.

Every February, the U.S. honors the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shape the nation. Black History Month celebrates the rich cultural heritage, triumphs and adversities that are an indelible part of our country's history.

This year's theme, Black Health and Wellness , pays homage to medical scholars and health care providers. The theme is especially timely as we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected minority communities and placed unique burdens on Black health care professionals.

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"There is no American history without African American history," said Sara Clarke Kaplan, executive director of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University in Washington, D.C. The Black experience, she said, is embedded in "everything we think of as 'American history.' "

First, there was Negro History Week

Critics have long argued that Black history should be taught and celebrated year-round, not just during one month each year.

It was Carter G. Woodson , the "father of Black history," who first set out in 1926 to designate a time to promote and educate people about Black history and culture, according to W. Marvin Dulaney. He is a historian and the president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History ( ASALH ).

Woodson envisioned a weeklong celebration to encourage the coordinated teaching of Black history in public schools. He designated the second week of February as Negro History Week and galvanized fellow historians through the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which he founded in 1915. (ASNLH later became ASALH.)

The idea wasn't to place limitations but really to focus and broaden the nation's consciousness.

essay about black history month

Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) was an American historian, a scholar and the founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Woodson was instrumental in launching Negro History Week in 1926. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images hide caption

"Woodson's goal from the very beginning was to make the celebration of Black history in the field of history a 'serious area of study,' " said Albert Broussard, a professor of Afro-American history at Texas A&M University.

The idea eventually grew in acceptance, and by the late 1960s, Negro History Week had evolved into what is now known as Black History Month. Protests around racial injustice, inequality and anti-imperialism that were occurring in many parts of the U.S. were pivotal to the change.

Colleges and universities also began to hold commemorations, with Kent State University being one of the first, according to Kaplan.

Fifty years after the first celebrations, President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month during the country's 1976 bicentennial. Ford called upon Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history," History.com reports .

Why February was chosen as Black History Month

February was chosen primarily because the second week of the month coincides with the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Lincoln was influential in the emancipation of slaves , and Douglass, a former slave, was a prominent leader in the abolitionist movement , which fought to end slavery.

Lincoln and Douglass were each born in the second week of February, so it was traditionally a time when African Americans would hold celebrations in honor of emancipation, Kaplan said. (Douglass' exact date of birth wasn't recorded, but he came to celebrate it on Feb. 14.)

Thus, Woodson created Negro History Week around the two birthdays as a way of "commemorating the black past," according to ASALH .

Forty years after Ford formally recognized Black History Month, it was Barack Obama, the nation's first Black president, who delivered a message of his own from the White House, a place built by slaves.

essay about black history month

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama host the annual reception for Black History Month at the White House on Feb. 18, 2016. Mike Theiler/Pool/Getty Images hide caption

"Black History Month shouldn't be treated as though it is somehow separate from our collective American history or somehow just boiled down to a compilation of greatest hits from the March on Washington or from some of our sports heroes," Obama said.

"It's about the lived, shared experience of all African Americans, high and low, famous and obscure, and how those experiences have shaped and challenged and ultimately strengthened America," he continued.

(Canada also commemorates Black History Month in February, while the U.K. and Ireland celebrate it in October.)

There's a new theme every year

ASALH designates a new theme for Black History Month each year, in keeping with the practice Woodson established for Negro History Week.

This year's Black Health and Wellness theme is particularly appropriate, Dulaney said, as the U.S. continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

"As [Black people], we have terrible health outcomes, and even the coronavirus has been affecting us disproportionately in terms of those of us who are catching it," Dulaney said.

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More black and latinx americans are embracing covid-19 vaccination.

"There's never been a time where Black people and others should not celebrate Black history," Broussard said. "Given the current racial climate, the racial reckoning that began in wake of George Floyd's murder ... this is an opportunity to learn."

NPR has compiled a list of stories, performances and other content that chronicles the Black American experience for Black History Month. See the whole collection here.

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Knowing the Past Opens the Door to the Future: The Continuing Importance of Black History Month

Woodson, Carter G (Carter Godwin) Dr. 1875-1950

No one has played a greater role in helping all Americans know the black past than Carter G. Woodson, the individual who created Negro History Week in Washington, D.C., in February 1926. Woodson was the second black American to receive a PhD in history from Harvard—following W.E.B. Du Bois by a few years. To Woodson, the black experience was too important simply to be left to a small group of academics. Woodson believed that his role was to use black history and culture as a weapon in the struggle for racial uplift. By 1916, Woodson had moved to DC and established the “Association for the Study of Negro Life and Culture,” an organization whose goal was to make black history accessible to a wider audience. Woodson was a strange and driven man whose only passion was history, and he expected everyone to share his passion.

An older man sits at his desk with something open in his lap and looking at the camera.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson, late 1940s

This impatience led Woodson to create Negro History Week in 1926, to ensure that school children be exposed to black history. Woodson chose the second week of February in order to celebrate the birthday of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It is important to realize that Negro History Week was not born in a vacuum. The 1920s saw the rise in interest in African American culture that was represented by the Harlem Renaissance where writers like Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglass Johnson, Claude McKay—wrote about the joys and sorrows of blackness, and musicians like Louie Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Jimmy Lunceford captured the new rhythms of the cities created in part by the thousands of southern blacks who migrated to urban centers like Chicago. And artists like Aaron Douglass, Richmond Barthé, and Lois Jones created images that celebrated blackness and provided more positive images of the African American experience.

Woodson hoped to build upon this creativity and further stimulate interest through Negro History Week. Woodson had two goals. One was to use history to prove to white America that blacks had played important roles in the creation of America and thereby deserve to be treated equally as citizens. In essence, Woodson—by celebrating heroic black figures—be they inventors, entertainers, or soldiers—hoped to prove our worth, and by proving our worth—he believed that equality would soon follow. His other goal was to increase the visibility of black life and history, at a time when few newspapers, books, and universities took notice of the black community, except to dwell upon the negative. Ultimately Woodson believed Negro History Week—which became Black History Month in 1976—would be a vehicle for racial transformation forever.

The question that faces us today is whether or not Black History Month is still relevant? Is it still a vehicle for change? Or has it simply become one more school assignment that has limited meaning for children. Has Black History Month become a time when television and the media stack their black material? Or is it a useful concept whose goals have been achieved? After all, few—except the most ardent rednecks - could deny the presence and importance of African Americans to American society or as my then-14 year old daughter Sarah put it, “I see Colin Powell everyday on TV, all my friends—black and white—are immersed in black culture through music and television. And America has changed dramatically since 1926—Is not it time to retire Black History Month as we have eliminated white and colored signs on drinking fountains?” I will spare you the three hour lesson I gave her.

I would like to suggest that despite the profound change in race relations that has occurred in our lives, Carter G. Woodson’s vision for black history as a means of transformation and change is still quite relevant and quite useful. African American history month, with a bit of tweaking, is still a beacon of change and hope that is still surely needed in this world. The chains of slavery are gone—but we are all not yet free. The great diversity within the black community needs the glue of the African American past to remind us of not just how far we have traveled but lo, how far there is to go.

While there are many reasons and examples that I could point towards, let me raise five concerns or challenges that African Americans — in fact — all Americans — face that black history can help address:

The Challenge of Forgetting

You can tell a great deal about a country and a people by what they deem important enough to remember, to create moments for — what they put in their museum and what they celebrate. In Scandinavia — there are monuments to the Vikings as a symbol of freedom and the spirit of exploration. In Germany during the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis celebrated their supposed Aryan supremacy through monument and song. While America traditionally revels in either Civil War battles or founding fathers. Yet I would suggest that we learn even more about a country by what it chooses to forget — its mistakes, its disappointments, and its embarrassments. In some ways, African American History month is a clarion call to remember. Yet it is a call that is often unheeded.

Let’s take the example of one of the great unmentionable in American history — slavery. For nearly 250 years slavery not only existed but it was one of the dominant forces in American life. Political clout and economic fortune depended on the labor of slaves. And the presence of this peculiar institution generated an array of books, publications, and stories that demonstrate how deeply it touched America. And while we can discuss basic information such as the fact that in 1860 — 4 million blacks were enslaved, and that a prime field hand cost $1,000, while a female, with her childbearing capability, brought $1,500, we find few moments to discuss the impact, legacy, and contemporary meaning of slavery.

In 1988, the Smithsonian Institution, about to open an exhibition that included slavery, decided to survey 10,000 Americans. The results were fascinating — 92% of white respondents felt slavery had little meaning to them — these respondents often said “my family did not arrive until after the end of slavery.” Even more disturbing was the fact that 79% of African Americans expressed no interest or some embarrassment about slavery. It is my hope that with greater focus and collaboration Black History Month can stimulate discussion about a subject that both divides and embarrasses.

As a historian, I have always felt that slavery is an African American success story because we found ways to survive, to preserve our culture and our families. Slavery is also ripe with heroes, such as slaves who ran away or rebelled, like Harriet Tubman or Denmark Vessey, but equally important are the forgotten slave fathers and mothers who raised families and kept a people alive. I am not embarrassed by my slave ancestors; I am in awe of their strength and their humanity. I would love to see the African American community rethink its connection to our slave past. I also think of something told to me by a Mr. Johnson, who was a former sharecropper I interviewed in Georgetown, SC:

Though the slaves were bought, they were also brave. Though they were sold, they were also strong.

The Challenge of Preserving a People’s Culture

While the African American community is no longer invisible, I am unsure that as a community we are taking the appropriate steps to ensure the preservation of African American cultural patrimony in appropriate institutions. Whether we like it or not, museums, archives, and libraries not only preserves culture they legitimize it. Therefore, it is incumbent of African Americans to work with cultural institutions to preserve their family photography, documents, and objects. While African Americans have few traditions of giving material to museums, it is crucial that more of the black past make it into American cultural repositories.

A good example is the Smithsonian, when the National Museum of American History wanted to mount an exhibition on slavery, it found it did not have any objects that described slavery. That is partially a response to a lack of giving by the African American Community. This lack of involvement also affects the preservation of black historic sites. Though there has been more attention paid to these sites, too much of our history has been paved over, gone through urban renewal, gentrified, or unidentified, or un-acknowledged. Hopefully a renewed Black History Month can focus attention on the importance of preserving African American culture.

There is no more powerful force than a people steeped in their history. And there is no higher cause than honoring our struggle and ancestors by remembering.

The Challenge of Maintaining a Community

As the African American Community diversifies and splinters, it is crucial to find mechanisms and opportunities to maintain our sense of community. As some families lose the connection with their southern roots, it is imperative that we understand our common heritage and history. The communal nature of black life has provided substance, guidance, and comfort for generations. And though our communities are quite diverse, it is our common heritage that continues to hold us together.

The Power of Inspiration

One thing has not changed. That is the need to draw inspiration and guidance from the past. And through that inspiration, people will find tools and paths that will help them live their lives. Who could not help but be inspired by Martin Luther King’s oratory, commitment to racial justice, and his ultimate sacrifice. Or by the arguments of William and Ellen Craft or Henry “Box” Brown who used great guile to escape from slavery. Who could not draw substance from the creativity of Madame CJ Walker or the audacity and courage of prize fighter Jack Johnson. Or who could not continue to struggle after listening to the mother of Emmitt Till share her story of sadness and perseverance. I know that when life is tough, I take solace in the poetry of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, or Gwendolyn Brooks. And I find comfort in the rhythms of Louie Armstrong, Sam Cooke or Dinah Washington. And I draw inspiration from the anonymous slave who persevered so that the culture could continue.

Let me conclude by re-emphasizing that Black History Month continues to serve us well. In part because Woodson’s creation is as much about today as it is about the past. Experiencing Black History Month every year reminds us that history is not dead or distant from our lives.

Rather, I see the African American past in the way my daughter’s laugh reminds me of my grandmother. I experience the African American past when I think of my grandfather choosing to leave the South rather than continue to experience share cropping and segregation. Or when I remember sitting in the back yard listening to old men tell stories. Ultimately, African American History — and its celebration throughout February — is just as vibrant today as it was when Woodson created it 85 years ago. Because it helps us to remember there is no more powerful force than a people steeped in their history. And there is no higher cause than honoring our struggle and ancestors by remembering.

Lonnie Bunch Founding Director

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What you need to know about the origins of Black History Month

Wreaths are laid in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington.

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Black History Month is considered one of the nation’s oldest organized history celebrations, and has been recognized by U.S. presidents for decades through proclamations and celebrations. Here is some information about the history of Black History Month .

How did Black History Month start?

It was Carter G. Woodson , a founder of the Assn. for the Study of African American History, who first came up with the idea of the celebration that became Black History Month. Woodson, the son of freed Virginia slaves, who went on to earn a PhD in history from Harvard, originally came up with the idea of Negro History Week to encourage Black Americans to become more interested in their own history and heritage. Woodson worried that Black children were not being taught about their ancestors’ achievements in American schools in the early 1900s.

“If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated,” Woodson said.

Why is Black History Month in February?

Woodson chose February because it had the birthdays of President Lincoln and the activist, author and speaker Frederick Douglass. Lincoln was born Feb. 12, and Douglass, a former slave who did not know his exact birthday, celebrated his on Feb. 14.

Daryl Michael Scott, a Howard University history professor and former president of the Assn. for the Study of African American History, said Woodson chose that week because Black Americans were already celebrating Lincoln’s and Douglass’ birthdays. With the help of Black newspapers, he promoted that week as a time to focus on African American history as part of the celebrations that were already ongoing.

The first Negro History Week was announced in February 1926.

“This was a community effort spearheaded by Woodson that built on tradition, and built on Black institutional life and structures to create a new celebration that was a week long, and it took off like a rocket,” Scott said.

People listen during a rally in support of reparations for African Americans outside City Hall in San Francisco, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

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Why the change from a week to a month?

Negro History Week was wildly successful, but Woodson felt it needed more.

Woodson’s original idea was for it to be a time for student showcases of the African American history they learned the rest of the year, not as the only week Black history would be discussed, Scott said. Woodson later advocated starting a “Negro History Year,” saying that during a school year “a subject that receives attention one week out of 36 will not mean much to anyone.”

Individually several places, including West Virginia in the 1940s and Chicago in the 1960s, expanded the celebration into a month. The civil rights and Black Power movement advocated for an official shift from Black History Week to Black History Month, Scott said, and, in 1976, on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Negro History Week, the Assn. for the Study of African American History made the shift to Black History Month .

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Presidential recognition

Every president since Gerald R. Ford through Joe Biden has issued a statement honoring the spirit of Black History Month.

Ford first honored Black History Week in 1975, calling the recognition “most appropriate,” as the country developed “a healthy awareness on the part of all of us of achievements that have too long been obscured and unsung.”

The next year, in 1976, Ford issued the first Black History Month commemoration, saying with the celebration “we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

President Carter added in 1978 that the celebration “provides for all Americans a chance to rejoice and express pride in a heritage that adds so much to our way of life.” President Reagan said in 1981 that “understanding the history of Black Americans is a key to understanding the strength of our nation.”

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Black History

TOPSHOT-BIO-MARTIN LUTHER KING-MARCH ON WASHINGTONTOPSHOT - The civil rights leader Martin Luther King (C) waves to supporters 28 August 1963 on the Mall in Washington DC (Washington Monument in background) during the "March on Washington". - King said the march was "the greatest demonstration of freedom in the history of the United States." Martin Luther King was assassinated on 04 April 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. James Earl Ray confessed to shooting King and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. King's killing sent shock waves through American society at the time, and is still regarded as a landmark event in recent US history. AFP PHOTO (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

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Black History Month

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Black History Month 2021: The only way forward is through, together

Black americans stand at the crossroads of racism and the systems of oppression that perpetuate it. we go forward from here with faith, bold strategy..

It’s an understatement to say that 2020 got on Black folks’ collective last nerve. 

We began the year with a COVID-19 pandemic that hit us harder than any other group of Americans and exposed the systemic inequities still at the root of the nation’s institutions despite the gains of the civil rights movement.

Black people were among essential workers risking their lives to serve others, but also among the first to lose their jobs after stay-at-home orders shuttered businesses in every state. Many of us lost friends and relatives and were unable, due to social distancing, to mourn them properly. 

Police-involved killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd sent us into the streets with our masks on to protest a law enforcement system that doesn’t protect us. To salt the wounds, racist rhetoric supported in the nation’s highest places pitted white Americans against Black Americans at a time when we all needed so badly to work together.

Protesters march through downtown Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, June 4, 2020. Protests continued in Nashville following the death of George Floyd, who died after being pinned down while handcuffed by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day.

Then 2021 arrived with an attack on the U.S. Capitol six days in by “patriots” bent on murder and destruction largely because the November election – of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black person and first woman to hold that office – didn’t go their way.

But as House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn notes in an exclusive essay for USA TODAY, this historical moment of chaos and confusion is not unfamiliar terrain. Last year was not without some victories, and 2021 is not without hope.

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In 1967, the beloved community Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sought to build, seemingly buoyed by civil rights legislation, seemed further away than ever. Police brutality in Watts in Los Angeles exploded into rebellion just after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and white backlash to integration seemed to threaten democracy itself. Young Black activists were at odds with their elders over who should lead the movement. 

So King put the question to the people in the title of his last book, "Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community?" This is the same question before us more than 50 years later.

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Black people I’ve talked to on nearly a year’s worth of Zoom calls have all said the same thing: Black folks have had hard times before, we know how to get through them. With faith, we will come forth stronger and better, but we all have to do it together. 

We need to first examine how we got here. How do we dismantle ideas and systems that keep racism alive?  We also need to hold our leaders as accountable for progress as we do ourselves.

More: 'Where Do We Go from Here?' King's question amid the chaos of the '60s still resonates today

There is the promise of vaccines for COVID-19. There is excitement in the election of Biden and Harris. Presidents of historically Black colleges and universities are hoping for Biden’s support. Black women like Donna Brazile, political strategist for several Democratic presidents, and Black girls like Rep. Ilhan Omar’s daughter can’t wait for the inspiration Harris will bring.

As King said in 1967 and Clyburn says today, we are at a crossroads. But as much as we want things to right themselves, we can’t rush the process. We can’t heal as a people, as a country, until we’ve taken time to examine everything that has so clearly gone wrong and allowed all voices to be heard.  

Where do we go from here? The short answer: Forward. Through still-difficult times to the other, better side. There’s no going back to a “normal” that never worked that well for Black people anyway.  

The only way forward is through. 

For more stories on how we move forward together, see this year's Black History Month special edition, on newsstands and in USA TODAY's online store .

Black History Month: What is it and why is it important?

Black History Month - A visitor at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

Black History Month is an opportunity to understand Black histories. Image:  Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

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This article was originally published in February 2021 and has been updated .

  • A continued engagement with history is vital as it helps give context for the present.
  • Black History Month is an opportunity to understand Black histories, going beyond stories of racism and slavery to spotlight Black achievement.
  • This year's theme is African Americans and the Arts.

February is Black History Month. This month-long observance in the US and Canada is a chance to celebrate Black achievement and provide a fresh reminder to take stock of where systemic racism persists and give visibility to the people and organizations creating change. Here's what to know about Black History Month and how to celebrate it this year:

Have you read?

Black history month: key events in a decade of black lives matter, here are 4 ways businesses can celebrate black history month, how did black history month begin.

Black History Month's first iteration was Negro History Week, created in February 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, known as the "father of Black history." This historian helped establish the field of African American studies and his organization, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History , aimed to encourage " people of all ethnic and social backgrounds to discuss the Black experience ".

“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.” ― Carter G. Woodson

His organization was later renamed the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) and is currently the oldest historical society established for the promotion of African American history.

Why is Black History Month in February?

February was chosen by Woodson for the week-long observance as it coincides with the birthdates of both former US President Abraham Lincoln and social reformer Frederick Douglass. Both men played a significant role in helping to end slavery. Woodson also understood that members of the Black community already celebrated the births of Douglass and Lincoln and sought to build on existing traditions. "He was asking the public to extend their study of Black history, not to create a new tradition", as the ASALH explained on its website.

How did Black History Month become a national month of celebration?

By the late 1960s, thanks in part to the civil-rights movement and a growing awareness of Black identity, Negro History Week was celebrated by mayors in cities across the country. Eventually, the event evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History month. In his speech, President 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”.

Since his administration, every American president has recognized Black History Month and its mission. But it wasn't until Congress passed "National Black History Month" into law in 1986 that many in the country began to observe it formally. The law aimed to make all Americans "aware of this struggle for freedom and equal opportunity".

Why is Black History Month celebrated?

Initially, Black History Month was a way of teaching students and young people about Black and African-Americans' contributions. Such stories had been largely forgotten and were a neglected part of the national narrative.

Now, it's seen as a celebration of those who've impacted not just the country but the world with their activism and achievements. In the US, the month-long spotlight during February is an opportunity for people to engage with Black histories, go beyond discussions of racism and slavery, and highlight Black leaders and accomplishments.

What is this year's Black History Month theme?

Every year, a theme is chosen by the ASALH, the group originally founded by Woodson. This year's theme, African Americans and the Arts .

"In the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression, the African American influence has been paramount," the website says.

Is Black History Month celebrated anywhere else?

In Canada, they celebrate it in February. In countries like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Ireland, they celebrate it in October. In Canada, African-Canadian parliament member Jean Augustine motioned for Black History Month in 1995 to bring awareness to Black Canadians' work.

When the UK started celebrating Black History Month in 1987, it focused on Black American history. Over time there has been more attention on Black British history. Now it is dedicated to honouring African people's contributions to the country. Its UK mission statement is: "Dig deeper, look closer, think bigger".

Why is Black History Month important?

For many modern Black millennials, the month-long celebration for Black History Month offers an opportunity to reimagine what possibilities lie ahead. But for many, the forces that drove Woodson nearly a century ago are more relevant than ever. As Lonnie G. Bunch III, Director of the Smithsonian Institution said at the opening of the Washington D.C.'s National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016: “There is no more powerful force than a people steeped in their history. And there is no higher cause than honouring our struggle and ancestors by remembering".

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Resource List

Celebrating Black History With The New York Times

Recent and archival articles, essays, photographs, videos, infographics, writing prompts, lesson plans and more.

essay about black history month

By The Learning Network

Below, a collection of Times articles, essays, photographs, videos, infographics and more that can help bring the wealth of Black history and culture into your classroom.

We begin with links to historic Times front pages, from the Dred Scott decision of 1857 through the civil rights movement and on to the election of Kamala Harris, the first woman of color to be elected vice president of the United States, and the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court. Below that, you’ll find a selection of more recent pieces from across Times sections on Black history and contemporary culture, including a section featuring the “Black History, Continued” series and “The 1619 Project.” Finally, we list some of our own recent related Learning Network lesson plans and writing prompts in the hopes that they inspire further reading, writing and discussion.

Our list is long, yes, but we also know it’s not nearly complete. Are there important pieces about Black history that you teach with? Please let us know in the comments.

Here’s what you'll find below:

Historic headlines, special new york times projects, selected recent reporting and multimedia, learning network lessons, writing prompts and films.

Archival articles that document key moments in Black history, and give us a glimpse into the time period in which they unfolded.

Historic Front Pages

Selected front pages and articles from The Learning Network’s “ On This Day ” feature which ran from 1999 to 2014. Please note that historic front pages published after that include a link to the front page and the original digital article.

1857 | Decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott Case

1863 | President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

1947 | Dodgers Purchase Robinson, First Negro in Modern Major League Baseball

1954 | High Court Bans School Segregation; 9-to-0 Decision Grants Time to Comply

1956 | High Court Rules Bus Segregation Unconstitutional

1957 | Arkansas Troops Bar Negro Pupils; Governor Defiant

1957 | President Sends Troops to Little Rock, Federalizes Arkansas National Guard; Tells Nation He Acted to Avoid An Anarchy

1957 | Miss Gibson Wimbledon Victor

1960 | Negro Sitdowns Stir Fear Of Wider Unrest in South

1961 | 400 U.S. Marshals Sent to Alabama as Montgomery Bus Riots Hurt 20; President Bids State Keep Order

1963 | Birmingham Bomb Kills 4 Negro Girls In Church; Riots Flare; 2 Boys Slain

1963 | Mississippi Gives Meredith Degree

1963 | 200,000 March for Civil Rights in Orderly Washington Rally

1964 | 3 In Rights Drive Reported Missing

1964 | Civil Rights Bill Passed, 73-27; Johnson Urges All To Comply; Dirksen Berates Goldwater

1964 | Martin Luther King Wins The Nobel Prize for Peace

1965 | New Negro Riots Erupt on Coast; 3 Reported Shot

1965 | The Big Parade: On the Way to Montgomery

1965 | 25,000 Go to Alabama’s Capitol

1965 | Malcolm X Shot to Death at Rally Here

1967 | President Sees Marshall Take Supreme Court Seat

1968 | Martin Luther King is Slain in Memphis

1968 | 2 Black Power Advocates Ousted From Olympics

1971 | Supreme Court, 9-0, Backs Busing to Combat South’s Dual Schools, Rejecting Administration Stand

1975 | Ashe Triumphs at Wimbledon

1991 | Police Brutality Under Wide Review by Justice Dept.

1992 | Los Angeles Policemen Acquitted In Taped Beating

2008 | Obama Elected President as Racial Barrier Falls

2013 | Prayer, Anger and Protests Greet Verdict in Florida Case ( Article )

2014 | Protests in Ferguson, Mo. ( Article )

2015 | Races Unite for Nine Killed by Gunman at Black Church ( Article )

2020 | Two Crises Convulse a Nation: A Pandemic and Police Violence ( Article )

2020 | Kamala Harris Makes History as First Woman and Woman of Color as Vice President ( Article )

2022 | Jackson Confirmed as First Black Woman to Sit on Supreme Court ( Article )

From Our Historic Headlines Collection

Selected articles from The Learning Network’s 2011 “ Historic Headlines ” collection that connects famous historical events to recent news.

Jan. 13, 1990 | L. Douglas Wilder Becomes First Elected Black Governor in U.S.

Feb. 1, 1960 | Black Students and the Greensboro Sit-In

Feb. 21, 1965 | Malcolm X Is Assassinated by Black Muslims

Feb. 29, 1968 | Kerner Commission Reports on U.S. Racial Inequality

March 6, 1857 | Supreme Court Issues Dred Scott Decision

March 7, 1965 | Civil Rights Marchers Attacked in Selma

March 15, 1965 | President Johnson Calls for Passage of Voting Rights Act

April 4, 1968 | The Assassination of Martin Luther King

April 20, 1971 | Supreme Court Rules That Busing Can Be Used to Integrate Schools

May 17, 1954 | Supreme Court Declares School Segregation Unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education

May 1, 1992 | Rodney King Asks, ‘Can We All Get Along?’

June 21, 1964 | Three Civil Rights Workers Missing

July 5, 1975 | Arthur Ashe Becomes First Black Man to Win Wimbledon

July 6, 1957 | Althea Gibson Becomes First Black Player to Win Wimbledon

Aug. 11, 1965 | Riots in the Watts Section of Los Angeles

Aug. 18, 1963 | James Meredith Graduates From Mississippi

Sept. 15, 1963 | Birmingham Church Is Bombed by Klansmen

Oct. 14, 1964 | Martin Luther King Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Oct. 18, 1968 | American Olympic Medal Winners Suspended for Black Power Salutes

Nov. 4, 2008 | Obama Is Elected President

Throwback Thursday | The Rodney King Verdict and the L.A. Riots

Throwback Thursday | Rosa Parks Refuses to Move to the Back of the Bus

These projects explore Black history in depth and from a variety of angles — connecting history to the present.

Progress, Revisited

Selected pieces from a new series from Headway that explores how measures of Black achievement in the U.S. have stalled or reversed, and looks back at historical gains for their lessons today.

The Elusive Quest for Black Progress

How the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike Changed the Labor Movement

How Greenwood Grew a Thriving Black Economy

Three Days That Changed the Thinking About Black Women’s Health

Sentenced to Life as Boys, They Made Their Case for Release

Black History, Continued

Selected pieces from Black History, Continued and our related curriculum. The 2021 series explores pivotal moments and transformative figures in Black culture and examines how the past shapes the present and the future.

Our Curriculum

Learning With the ‘Black History, Continued’ Series

On-Demand Webinar: Teaching With ‘Black History, Continued’

Writing Prompt: How Much Have You Learned About Black History?

Lesson of the Day: ‘When Blackness Is a Superpower’

Lesson of the Day: ‘The Black Woman Artist Who Crafted a Life She Was Told She Couldn’t Have’

Lesson of the Day: ‘Bringing Black History to Life in the Great Outdoors’

Lesson of the Day: ‘Black Surfers Reclaim Their Place on the Waves’

Lesson of the Day: ‘What Is Black Love Today?’

Teaching About the Tulsa Race Massacre With The New York Times

Additional Pieces

A Record Number of Black Women Run Some of the Biggest U.S. Cities

How Black Foragers Find Freedom in the Natural World

Why Students Are Choosing H.B.C.U.s: ‘4 Years Being Seen as Family’

The Joy of Black Hair

The Black Nerds Redefining the Culture

How Can Blackness Construct America?

Do We Ask Too Much of Black Heroes?

The Essential Toni Morrison

The 1619 Project

Selected pieces from The 1619 Project , an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.

Essays From The New York Times Magazine

Why We Published the 1619 Project , by Jake Silverstein

The Idea of America , by Nikole Hannah-Jones

Capitalism , by Matthew Desmond

A Broken Health Care System , by Jeneen Interlandi

Traffic , by Kevin M. Kruse

Undemocratic Democracy , by Jamelle Bouie

Medical Inequality , by Linda Villarosa

American Popular Music , by Wesley Morris

Sugar , by Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Mass Incarceration , by Bryan Stevenson

The Wealth Gap , by Trymaine Lee

Hope, a Photo Essay , by Djeneba Aduayom

400 Years: A Literary Timeline

Why Can’t We Teach This? by Nikita Stewart

A Brief History of Slavery , by Mary Elliott and Jazmine Hughes

The 1619 Podcast

Related Pieces

How the 1619 Project Came Together

Is Slavery’s Legacy in the Power Dynamics of Sports?

Stories From Slavery, Shared Over Generations

We Respond to the Historians Who Critiqued The 1619 Project

The 1619 Project Curriculum (Pulitzer Center)

“The 1619 Project” docuseries on Hulu

Recent articles, essays, photos, obituaries, photos and graphics on Black history and contemporary culture.

Articles on Culture, Sports, Science and the Arts

How Hip-Hop Changed the English Language Forever

How Hip-Hop Conquered the World

A Silvery, Shimmering Summer of Beyoncé

The Great Experiment That Is ‘The Color Purple’

Norman Lear Reshaped How America Saw Black Families

The First 10 Words of the African American English Dictionary Are In

The Blind Side of Sports Storytelling

A Negro Leagues Star Is Still Sharing His Story

Michael Jordan Was an Activist After All

How ‘Weathering’ Contributes to Racial Health Disparities

The Toll of Police Violence on Black People’s Mental Health

Black Artists Say A.I. Shows Bias, With Algorithms Erasing Their History

How Unconscious Bias in Health Care Puts Pregnant Black Women at Higher Risk

Two Chefs on Keeping Alive, and Redefining, Soul Food

Black Spirituals as Poetry and Resistance

The African-American Art Shaping the 21st Century

Why We’re Capitalizing Black

Seven Black Inventors Whose Patents Helped Shape American Life

The Most Important Decade for Movies About Black Lives

Why Won’t Blackface Go Away? It’s Part of America’s Troubled Cultural Legacy

28 Days, 28 Films for Black History Month

Love and Black Lives, in Pictures Found on a Brooklyn Street

The National Museum Of African-American History And Culture: I, Too, Sing America

Edna Lewis and the Black Roots of American Cooking

Articles on History, Politics, Education and Business

Inside the College Board’s Revised African American Studies Curriculum

One Black Family, One Affirmative Action Ruling, and Lots of Thoughts

Florida Scoured Math Textbooks for ‘Prohibited Topics.’ Next Up: Social Studies.

Hate Crimes Reported in Schools Nearly Doubled Between 2018 and 2022

8 Places Across the U.S. That Illuminate Black History

‘I Have a Dream,’ Yesterday and Today

The Home of Carter G. Woodson, the Man Behind Black History Month

America’s Black Cemeteries and Three Women Trying to Save Them

A New Front in Reparations: Seeking the Return of Lost Family Land

How the Voting Rights Act, Newly Challenged, Has Long Been Under Attack

‘The Justins’ Follow a Legacy of Resistance in Tennessee

Juneteenth: The History of a Holiday

Teachers Tackle Black History Month, Under New Restrictions

Revitalizing Black Neighborhoods by Preserving Their History

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Ghosts of Segregation

Welcome to Homecoming!

Meet the Brave but Overlooked Women of Color Who Fought for the Vote

What Is Owed

Lock-Ins and Walkouts: The Students Changing City Schools From the Inside

Emmett Till’s Murder, and How America Remembers Its Darkest Moments

1.5 Million Missing Black Men

Found: Rosa Parks’s Arrest Warrant, and More Traces of Civil Rights History

President Obama’s Farewell Address: Full Video and Text

New Databases Offer Insights Into the Lives of Escaped Slaves

Opinion Essays

Yes, Kwanzaa Is Made Up. That’s Why It’s Great

Who’s Afraid of Black History?

How Does Diversity Actually Work at College? We Asked 10 Young Black Americans.

How the Underground Railroad Got Its Name

The Forgotten Radicalism of the March on Washington

Martin Luther King Jr. Wasn’t a Lone Messiah

Why We Have to Reckon With the Real Malcolm X

Genuine Progress Is the Ability to Be Black and Stumble

Tyre Nichols’s Death Is America’s Shame

My Hair Was Always a Source of Tension Between My Mother and Me. Then We Met Charlotte.

Rodeo Is Turning America’s Whitest Big City Black

What Canceling Student Debt Would Do for the Racial Wealth Gap

The True Meaning of Juneteenth

Black History Month Is About Seeing America Clearly

When Everyone Around You Is Talking About the End, Talk About Black History

Black Valedictorians and the Toxic Trope of Black Exceptionalism

The Real Rosa Parks Story Is Better Than the Fairy Tale

We Need a Second Great Migration

Racism’s Hidden Toll

A ‘Glorious Poetic Rage’

This Black History Month’s Lesson: Joy

It Was Never About Busing

Brent Staples’s Pulitzer Prize-Winning Work at The Times

I’m Not Here to Answer Your Black History Month Questions

The ‘Lost Cause’ That Built Jim Crow

Ta-Nehisi Coates: The Cancellation of Colin Kaepernick

The Cultural Canon Is Better Than Ever

Who First Showed Us That Black Lives Matter?

How Black America Saw Obama

The Authentic Power of Michelle Obama

Henry Louis Gates Jr.: Restoring Black History

How to Stay Sane While Black

Remember Langston Hughes’s Anger Alongside His Joy

Selected Obituaries

essay about black history month

Remarkable Black Men and Women We Overlooked

For Martin Luther King’s Birthday, Black Leaders as Obituaries Portrayed Them

Recent Notable Deaths

Harry Belafonte

Tina Turner

Chadwick Boseman

C.T. Vivian

Kobe Bryant

Toni Morrison

Scenes From Juneteenth: America’s Newest Holiday, 156 Years in the Making

Heirlooms, Redefined

How Black Lives Matter Reached Every Corner of America

From The Times’s Photo Vault, the Many Dimensions of Jackie Robinson

50 Years After Their Mug Shots, Portraits of Mississippi’s Freedom Riders

Loving, 50 Years Later

African-American History Seen Through an African-American Lens

A Look at the Heart-Wrenching Moments From Equal Rights Battles

Using Photography to Tell Stories About Race

The World According to Black Women Photographers

An Elegant, Lyrical Look at Black Lives by Black Photographers

The Lasting Power of Emmett Till’s Image

From Slavery to Freedom: Revealing the Underground Railroad

Understanding Race and History Through Photography

A Last Look at Ebony’s Archives, Before They’re Sold

Unpublished Black History

Unpublished: Sports and Black History

Times Photographs of the Civil Rights Era

Our site has been publishing lesson plans and student resources since 1998. Those chosen for this collection are from 2014 or later. See our Race, Racism and Racial Justice Resources spotlight for more.

Some Recent Lesson Plans

Lessons based on Times articles that explore Black history and culture

Lesson Plan: ‘Octavia Butler’s Science Fiction Predicted the World We Live In’

8 Ways to Teach and Learn About Hip-Hop

Lesson Plan: ‘An American Puzzle: Fitting Race in a Box’

Lesson Plan: The End of Race-Based Affirmative Action in College Admissions

A Teacher-Created Unit on Race and Racism Using The New York Times

Lesson Plan: The Debate Over the Teaching of U.S. History

Lesson of the Day: ‘A Call to Remember the 200,000 Black Troops Who Helped Save the Union’

Lesson of the Day: ‘Tour a House Full of Black History’

Lesson of the Day: ‘How a National Movement Toppled Hundreds of Confederate Symbols’

Lesson of the Day: ‘A Civil Rights Pioneer Seeks to Have Her Record Cleared’

Lesson of the Day: ‘Critical Race Theory: A Brief History’

Five Ways to Learn About Juneteenth With The New York Times

Lesson of the Day: ‘Four Studies of Black Healing’

Lesson of the Day: ‘As New Police Reform Laws Sweep Across the U.S., Some Ask: Are They Enough?’

Lesson of the Day: ‘Two Biden Priorities, Climate and Inequality, Meet on Black-Owned Farms’

Lesson of the Day: ‘A Teenager Was Bullied. His Ancestors Saved Him.’

Lesson of the Day: ‘Dr. Seuss Books Are Pulled, and a “Cancel Culture” Controversy Erupts’

Resources for Teaching About Race and Racism With The New York Times and an on-demand webinar

Lesson of the Day: ‘What Students Are Saying About Race and Racism in America’

Lesson of the Day: ‘Black, Deaf and Extremely Online’

Lesson of the Day: Amanda Gorman and ‘The Hill We Climb’

Lesson of the Day: ‘Listen Up: These Young Black Poets Have a Message’

Lesson of the Day: ‘How Black Lives Matter Reached Every Corner of America’

Teaching Ideas and Resources to Help Students Make Sense of the George Floyd Protests

Learning About Slavery With Primary Sources

Lesson of the Day: ‘Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two American Stories.’

Lesson of the Day: ‘Can Biology Class Reduce Racism?’

Still Separate, Still Unequal: Teaching about School Segregation and Educational Inequality

‘Her Subject Is America’: Teaching Toni Morrison With The New York Times

Moving On Up: Teaching With the Data of Economic Mobility

25 Mini-Films for Exploring Race, Bias and Identity With Students

First Encounters With Race and Racism: Teaching Ideas for Classroom Conversations

Equality Under the Law? Investigating Race and the Justice System

Teaching and Learning About Martin Luther King Jr. With The New York Times

Front Page History: Teaching About Selma Using Original Times Reporting

Reader Idea | Reading Langston Hughes and Charles Blow With Youth in Detention

Reader Idea | A Mural Project Inspired by New York Times Columns on Race

Guest Post | Ideas for Student Civic Action in a Time of Social Uncertainty

Text to Text Series

An often-taught text paired with a Times article that echoes, extends or challenges its themes or ideas

Text to Text | ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ and ‘Discrimination in Housing Against Nonwhites Persists Quietly’

Text to Text | Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem Protest and Frederick Douglass’s ‘What to the Slave is the 4th of July?’

Text to Text | ‘Why Reconstruction Matters’ and ‘Black Reconstruction in America’

Text to Text | ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘History of Lynchings in the South Documents Nearly 4,000 Names’

Text to Text | ‘What Would Malcolm X Think?’ and ‘After the Bombing’

Text to Text | ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ and ‘The Sequel’

Text to Text | ‘Little Things Are Big’ and ‘Students See Many Slights as Racial ‘Microaggressions’ ’

Text to Text | ‘I Have a Dream’ and ‘The Lasting Power of Dr. King’s Dream Speech’

Writing Prompts

A selection of Student Opinion questions and Picture Prompts based on Times articles and images

How Should Schools Respond to Racist Jokes?

What Is Your Reaction to the End of Race-Based Affirmative Action in College Admissions?

What Do You Think About the Controversy Surrounding the New A.P. Course on African American Studies?

The Death of Tyre Nichols: A Place for Teenagers to Respond

What Has Serena Williams Meant to Tennis, the Sports World and You?

What Is the Purpose of Teaching U.S. History?

What Does Judge Jackson’s Supreme Court Confirmation Mean to You?

What Can History Teach Us About Resilience?

Do You Support Affirmative Action in College Admissions?

Does the N.F.L. Have a Race Problem?

How Much Have You Learned About Black History?

How Diverse Is Your School?

What Is Your Reaction to Efforts to Limit Teaching on Race in Schools?

How Much Have You and Your Community Changed Since George Floyd’s Death?

Should White Writers Translate a Black Author’s Work?

Should Athletes Speak Out On Social and Political Issues?

Should We Rename Schools Named for Historical Figures With Ties to Racism, Sexism or Slavery?

How Should Racial Slurs in Literature Be Handled in the Classroom?

How Have You Learned About Slavery?

How Much Racism Do You Face in Your Daily Life?

Do You See Yourself in the Books You Read?

Does the United States Owe Reparations to the Descendants of Enslaved People?

Is Racial and Economic Diversity in Schools Important?

Is Fear of ‘The Other’ Poisoning Public Life?

Should All Americans Receive Anti-Bias Education?

How Much Power Do Books Have to Teach Young People Tolerance of Others?

What Does Dr. King’s Legacy Mean to You?

Why Is Race So Hard to Talk About?

Should Confederate Statues Be Removed or Remain in Place?

Do You Ever Talk About Issues of Race and Class With Your Friends?

Who Does Hip-Hop Belong To?

Picture Prompt | Lizzo and James Madison’s Crystal Flute

Picture Prompt| ‘You Need to Try Harder’

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Why Rappers Stopped Writing: The Punch-In Method

Fifty years into hip-hop’s constant evolution, many of today’s rappers don’t write down their lyrics at all. Here’s how they make songs now.

“I think a lot of people picture, like, modern rappers who really just, like, pen and paper in the studio, writing down their raps, figuring it out, scratching it out, changing it.” “Yeah, no, we stopped writing a long time ago. Not many people write.” “Back in the day, when people were just using tape, you just had one take. So everybody had to be on point.” “There used to be a time before the 24 track, for instance. If a singer went in, you had to sing that [expletive], top to bottom, baby. You had to have it figured out.” “Most music up until about 20 years ago was always recorded on tape. It’s more of a process. It’s a lot more laborious, a little bit more tedious.” Rapping: “Three strikes and we might just blast —” “I’ve watched Tupac giving a speech — ‘Hey, we have two hours of studio time. Come here prepared.’” “We don’t have time or the luxury to spend all of this time doing one song. We don’t have it.” “Fast forward a little bit. Word starts to spread mid-to-late 90s that Jay doesn’t actually write any of his rhymes down.” “So you literally come in the studio and then formulate sentences in your head?” “Yeah.” “And then spit it to that beat?” “Yeah.” “And you never write down the lyrics?” “Never.” “Which leads to other rappers wanting to do the same thing.” “I found out that Jay wasn’t writing. I didn’t want to ever see a pen or paper, again, in my life.” “He has class, first in the lunch line. My lunch ticket let me eat rappers at lunch time.” “What I know is, when you see your hero can jump seven feet, it makes you want to jump eight.” “If it depends on me, 10 out of 10.” “You’re telling me, you’re falling out of love with me.” “I came up at the trenches.” “The problem is that not all of them are as great or as capable of doing it.” “Yeah, turn me up in my ear.” [rapping] “That’s no pen, no pad. They’re just going in and punching in.” “Punch in.” “Punch method.” “Punch and recording.” “Punching three more bars.” “I ain’t never wrote raps. I just be rapping.” “Do you write, or do you punch in?” “I punch in. I don’t write.” “Today, ProTools is essentially, like, the pen and paper, and that’s where it becomes this different type of art form.” “It’s improvisational versus writing the stand-up piece. You know what I mean?” “It’s like freehand versus tracing.” “Oh OK.” “Keep that part for me, just punch me in.” “The artist might not really have the song written, but they’re not necessarily freestyling in the traditional sense, where they’re just going in and saying the first thing that comes to mind, and they’re doing that for four minutes straight.” “Punching in, like saying one bar at a time.” “I’ve got these racks that can’t fold in the wallet. I’m making deposits. “Definitely one line at a time.” “That bar, and you said the bar out there, and you play it all together. It sounds like a whole sentence. “They’re using punching in as a way to create their rhymes as opposed to a way to correct their rhymes. Yeah, I feel it’s really just a generational thing.” “But you don’t think you could end up with something better if you sometimes wrote some stuff?” “No.” “It’s just not for you?” “No, [expletive] that.” “Rap has grown. Rap has evolved, and there’s always good and bad when it comes to evolution. What we’re seeing is a lot of the same lane being explored over and over again.” “People think, oh, they just rap about this, or they’re just rapping about, like, the easy rhyme scheme or the easy — but to be in a studio and write five songs a day, seven days a week about new topics and make it sound different, it’s very, very impressive.” “It is a sport. It is a sport to it.” “Instead of one song for a week, it’s five songs a night, and you keep it pushing.” “Not that our artistry isn’t appreciated, but it’s more so like, all right, how fast are we getting this done?” “And I’m just saying that the unprofessional rap culture is what I’m a kid of. Guys were like, I’m just a street cat, and I’ll rap.” [rapping] “I jumped off the porch and bought me a gun.” “I just want people to know that, like, you’re not Jay-Z, you’re not a failure.” “It’s about you, whether you’re writing on a phone, a piece of paper, punching in, off the dome. It doesn’t matter.” “Rapping to me, coming from, like, how I feel right then and there. Like me writing down ain’t going to be the same energy of me saying it.” “You can’t really hold your technique over a younger generation’s head, right? Ultimately, it is about just getting the best end result.” [rapping] “I respect it all because it all takes work, and it all takes thought. Whether you’re sitting over a pad or you got to spend four hours figuring it out, piecing it together, punching in, if the end, result moves people emotionally, the art is worth it.”

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The Important Political History of Black History Month

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Many accept Black History Month as a special time of year, yet few recognize the role African American teachers played in establishing and popularizing this tradition during Jim Crow. Originally founded in 1926 as Negro History Week by the famed educator and groundbreaking historian Carter G. Woodson, Black History Month is the product of Black teachers’ long-standing intellectual and political struggles.

As a longtime public school teacher, Woodson witnessed white school leaders resist efforts to meaningfully transform curriculum and school policies, and while earning his doctorate from Harvard University, between 1908 and 1912, he learned how distortions about Black life were constructed at the highest levels of education. Recognizing these barriers, he decided to work from outside the classroom to partner with teachers. This began with Woodson founding the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915.

Woodson was particularly interested in using Negro History Week to infuse students’ learning with critical knowledge about racial domination as well as the long traditions of Black resistance and achievement. Negro History Week quickly became a cultural norm in Black segregated schools. According to surveys conducted by Black educator and journalist Thomas L. Dabney in 1934, it was celebrated in more than 80 percent of those high schools by the mid-1930s.

The creation of Negro History Week did not occur in a vacuum. It reflected a continuum of consciousness among Black educators, channeling an intellectual and political tradition long practiced in the private spaces of their classrooms. This class of teachers placed the needs of their students above protocols imposed by white school leaders.

This tradition stretched back as early as 1864, when Black abolitionist Charlotte Forten taught recently freed children in South Carolina about Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Haitian Revolution. Noticing the absence of such narratives in textbooks and materials supplied by white missionaries, Forten wrote that Black children “should know what one of their own color had done for his race.”

A decade before establishing Negro History Week, Woodson and his colleagues at the M Street School in Washington planned professional-development events for Black teachers, and they did so independent of the school district. These workshops during the 1915-16 academic year extended from previous strategies they employed to work around the official school curriculum. Woodson facilitated a history and civics workshop, which took place just after he published the inaugural issue of the Journal of Negro History—the first academic publication of its kind and one that Woodson founded and edited using the small salary he earned from teaching history, English, and French at the M Street School. W.E.B. Du Bois—who had visited the school in previous years at the invitation of Anna Julia Cooper, the school’s principal at the time and the author of A Voice from the South: By A Black Woman from the South —led workshops on Black history for teachers.

These educators insisted on the importance of providing students with cultural armor to repudiate the racial myths reflected in the nation’s laws, social policies, and American curriculum.

Such examples reflect a robust intellectual culture among Black schoolteachers. What’s more, these educators insisted on the importance of providing students with cultural armor to repudiate the racial myths reflected in the nation’s laws, social policies, and American curriculum.

But teaching about Black life and culture was not just about songs, poems, and a few good stories of successful Black people. Woodson emphasized the direct relationship between curricular content and the violent lived experiences of Black people in the world. When reflecting on Negro History Week in 1926, he wrote the following in the Journal of Negro History: “A Negro is passed on the street and is shoved off in the mud; he complains or strikes back and is lynched as a desperado who attacked a gentleman. And what if he is handicapped, segregated, or lynched? According to our education and practice, if you kill one of the group, the world goes on just as well or better; for the Negro is nothing, has never been anything, and never will be anything but a menace to civilization.”

Woodson argued that the official school curriculum cultivated anti-Blackness as a social competence, and its system of representation reflected and reproduced social hierarchies that plagued human society. Based on the American curriculum, Blackness and Black people represented the antithesis of human civilization and achievement. Thus, Negro History Week emerged from Black teachers’ political clarity about the ideological foundations of American schooling and their desire to disrupt such foundations.

The occasion arrived annually in February, yet teachers should not wait until February to study Black life and culture. Woodson emphasized this point again and again. “Some teachers and their students have misunderstood the celebration of Negro History Week,” Woodson explained in the February 1938 Negro History Bulletin. He observed how some schools “work up enthusiasm during these few days, stage a popular play, present an orator of the day, or render exercises of a literary order; but they forget the Negro thereafter throughout the year. To proceed in such fashion may do as much harm as good.”

At its best, Negro History Week dramatized and expressed an educational vision that shaped learning year-round. This caution offered in 1938 might also be applied to our 21 st -century present.

As we reflect on the importance of Black History Month in 2021—a time of unprecedented challenges—we might draw inspiration from the robust intellectual and political tradition of Black teachers from the past. The greatest among them were more than ordinary practitioners. They were scholars of the practice. We have Black History Month because of their long tradition of study and struggle.

A version of this article appeared in the February 03, 2021 edition of Education Week as The History of Black History Month

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Nia Henderson Louis asks a question during AP African American Studies class at Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Ky., on March 19, 2024.

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Black History Month: The Importance of Knowing African American History

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Words: 553 |

Updated: 1 December, 2023

Words: 553 | Page: 1 | 3 min read

Works Cited:

  • Aitken, R., & Dupuis, M. (2017). Risk, governance, and compliance after the global financial crisis: The implications of regulatory capitalism for the restructuring of financial services. Regulation & Governance, 11(2), 125-139.
  • Campbell, A. (2014). Jordan Belfort's "The Wolf of Wall Street" and the Corruption of the American Dream. Journal of American Culture, 37(2), 252-265.
  • Covell, J., & Crispin, L. (2017). Masculinity, gender and the domain of the sales organization. Gender, Work & Organization, 24(3), 274-287.
  • Diamond, J. (2013). The wolf of wall street: How Hollywood infiltrated the Dow Jones. Financial Times, 1.
  • Elazar, M. (2016). “Wolf of Wall Street” on trial: Pop culture in the court of law. Rutgers Journal of Law & Public Policy, 13(2), 301-331.
  • Field, D. (2015). High rollers: Inside the savings and loan disaster. University of Texas Press.
  • Kondratieva, M. A., & Semenov, V. P. (2019). Moral values in the context of Wall Street. European Journal of Science and Theology, 15(3), 143-155.
  • Levin, M. J. (2016). From Jordan Belfort to Steve Cohen: The ethical perils of insider trading. Journal of Business Ethics, 133(3), 549-563.
  • Lowry, D. T., & Gaskin, J. (2019). Gender and power in the workplace: Analyzing the influence of the #MeToo movement in organizational research. Journal of Management Inquiry, 28(4), 402-409.
  • McNair, B. (2018). Gender stereotypes in the media. In The Routledge Companion to Media and Gender (pp. 57-66). Routledge.

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Faculty, Staff, Student - February 19, 2021

What Does Black History Month Mean To You?

In celebration of Black History Month, the Student Life team asked students, faculty, alumni, and staff for quotes and thoughts about the importance of the season. Below is a compilation of the thoughts and experiences members of our community chose to share.

McSteve Ezikeoha, M.S. in Actuarial Science

"Black is beautiful, Black is excellent. Black is pain, Black is joy, Black is evident. Black is so much deeper than just African-American. Black is growing up around the barbershop. Black is stepping in for your mother because your father's gone. Black is being forced to leave the place you love because there's hate in it. Black is struggling to find your history or trace your roots. Black is being strong inside while facing defeat. Black is being guilty until proven innocent. But Black is all I know, there ain't a thing that I would change in it." Culled from Santan Dave's "Black"

Nia Hill, M.S. in Nonprofit Management

Black History Month is a reminder to all Americans that their country would not be as wealthy and sustainable today if it were not for the innovation, hard work, intellect, and courage of Black Americans that came before us. There are so many to give credit to! Just know that for me, because of the innumerable amount of Black folk that dedicated their lives to change, Black History Month re-affirms the fact that I, a proud Black woman, have no excuse to not impact my community, this nation, and ultimately the world.

Victor Oko, M.S. in Technology Management

Black History Month is about appreciating and recognizing key African American achievements.

Annette Parkins, M.A. in Social-Organizational Psychology

To me, Black History Month is a celebration of how far I've come in disappearing the shame around my identity, a season to honor our ancestors and their hidden contributions, and a time of reflection on the work still to be done.

Rachel Williams, '19SPS, M.S. in Strategic Communication

Black history month is a celebration of our ancestors and their excellence, motivation to always strive for the greatness that lies beyond our current circumstances, a sense of community, the task to create better paths for our successors, and the constant reminder that; without black history, there would be no history.

Rachel Oatis, '19SPS, M.S. in Nonprofit Management

Black History Month (BHM) for me is a reminder that Black is love and it has an undeniable unifying factor. With the outward exhibited forms of affection and love during the month of February, I reflect with others on why I’m so proud to be Black and love it. Don’t get me wrong..it’s always a good day to be Black and a Black woman but, during BHM there’s a special recognition universally that is bonded to this feeling. BHM is an invitation for others to join in the ongoing celebration of Blackness. It is unity in its highest form.

Damian Murray, M.S. in Technology Management

Black history month is celebrating the positive impact and the contributions that we have given to the world. It's black history month, real-life documentation of what our people are cable of accomplishing no matter the difficulties. Anything is possible.

Kayden Molock, M.S. in Sports Management

Black History Month means the appreciation and acknowledgement of Blackness and how it permeates all aspects of society. It’s the recognition of people and a culture that transcends the racist and imperial formations of the United States. It is a celebration of Black men, women, nonbinary, trans, disabled folx. It’s a reminder that the level of reverence shown during this month is something that needs to be consistent the entire year. It’s a call to action to continue to advocate for and uplift those within society who are often pushed to the margins.

Meghan Sowersby, M.S. in Strategic Communication

Black History cannot be contained or limited to a month. But it is a good reminder of Black peoples’ indelible imprint on world history.

Mydashia Hough, SPS Student Advisor

Black History Month is about our ancestors, change-makers, and revolutionaries -- whose names we know as well as those unheard of and forgotten. For many, the fruits of their labor were never seen or enjoyed, and we owe many of our freedoms to their efforts. We often relish the stories and legends but should gift our gratitude to the human side of the individuals who dedicated parts of themselves to better our world, and to have this be a regular practice that extends beyond a month in February, but penetrates the very fabric of our educational institutions and society.

Melissa Miller, SPS Leadership Coach

Black History Month is an opportunity to proudly shine a light on the Black diaspora's multifaceted histories and unsung historical figures. BHM encourages us to recognize our past, evaluate our present, and plan for our future. Lastly, it galvanizes and serves as a reminder of the tremendous work we have to continue to do all year long towards eradicating social injustices.

Andrea Stokes, M.S. in Nonprofit Management

Black History Month is the opportunity to engage with and embrace the contributions set forth by the African Diaspora. It’s also an opportunity to understand the struggles Black people around the world face, but also celebrate our resilience. Most importantly, this month reminds me of the beauty of being Black, and the diversity of our people and culture.

Clement Gibson, M.S. in Strategic Communication

Black History Month is a time when leaders and innovators of this country receive their flowers for their sacrifices, hard work, and creativity in the United States. It is a time shed light on shaded truths (and lies) of the past and acknowledge those who blazed trails we may not see in textbooks, or hear in lecture halls outside of HBCU's. It is a time to say thank you to those who labored for the fruits we enjoy today.

Erica Davis, '20SPS, M.S. in Strategic Communication

Black History means taking ALL that wasn't given then and making opportunities for today--honoring those who entrenched themselves on the battlefield for me. Sign up! Sign up! Serve today as Black History Month is a precious reminder that there is still so much work to be done in our communities and identifiable progress that my brothers and sisters must make. 

Black History has a sharp edge of holding myself accountable to continue to build bridges between law enforcement and the community. 

Black History teaches me new ways to strategically communicate with someone who doesn’t look like me... understand me.

Black History will always be the book I read.

Chelsea Hannah, M.S. in Strategic Communication

Black History Month is an important time to celebrate the impact of African American culture in the past, present and reminds us of hope and opportunity for the future. This year, it means so much to me because my position as the Chair of the Youth Task Force for Meaningful Change at Universal Music Group calls for taking time during this month to highlight and recognize all of the achievements of African Americans within the music industry and inspiring others to carry on the legacy. Coming from a family of pioneers, this month also reminds me of the endless possibilities in the world to be so much greater. I look forward to matching the same energy of those that came before me and leaving an impact that is greater than myself.

Kandis Thorpe, M.S. in Social Work, School of Social Work 

Black History Month to me is about Black liberation and getting closer to my roots by acknowledging and highlighting the pioneers who came before us. It means to look at our past, present, and future as a collective and continuing the work our ancestors has started. BHM means an emphasis on literacy. It’s very important in learning Black history. To dig into the depths of what was left out of the history books and class curriculums is empowering yet sparks drive within me to continue my work of dismantling oppressive systems within my field of social work.

Joshua Mackey, Assistant Director of Student Affairs, School of the Arts

Black History Month means acknowledging, honoring, and celebrating the history of Black folks. I also see it as a time to shed light on how the Black community continues to advance culture, industry, and society, even in the midst of all the injustices we still face as a community.

UNDERGRADUATE

Research & artistry, alumni & giving, a college of liberal arts department, black history month: essay collections, a reading list.

~from Jill Salahub

As we wrap up our celebration of Black History Month , we want to share one more reading list — this time we focus on essay collections. Here are some of our favorites and recommendations.

We Were Eight Years in Power book cover

You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson . Disclaimer: I am a huge fan of the podcast (and now HBO show) 2 Dope Queens, so anything I have to say about Robinson’s book is biased. However, the book was a  New York Times bestseller and Publishers Weekly says it is “Moving, poignant, witty, and funny…a promising debut by a talented, genuinely funny writer,” so it’s not just me. The book’s publisher describes the collection this way: “Being a black woman in America means contending with old prejudices and fresh absurdities every day. Comedian Phoebe Robinson has experienced her fair share over the years…Now, she’s ready to take these topics to the page—and she’s going to make you laugh as she’s doing it.”

Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl book cover

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie . A book length essay that aims to give a definition of feminism for the 21st century which. “With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike.” For those of you TL;DR, consider checking out her TED Talk of the same name .

Bad Feminist book cover

The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6′ 4″, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning,Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian by W. Kamau Bell .  The  New York Times calls Bell “the most promising new talent in political comedy in many years,” and  The New Yorker says of his writing style “Bell’s gimmick is intersectional progressivism: he treats racial, gay, and women’s issues as inseparable.” This collection is “a humorous, well-informed take on the world today, tackling a wide range of issues.” Roxane Gay describes it as “Part memoir. Part riffs on Bell’s interests. Part cultural criticism. The essays all have a meandering quality as if the writer is sitting next to you, telling you a good story. He is particularly good at showing his growth personally and professionally. Lots of warmth and heart and intelligence here.”

Sister Outsider book cover

Black Ink: Literary Legends on the Peril, Power, and Pleasure of Reading and Writing edited by Stephanie Stokes Oliver . “Spanning over 250 years of history,  Black Ink  traces black literature in America from Frederick Douglass to Ta-Nehisi Coates in this masterful collection of twenty-five illustrious and moving essays on the power of the written word…Organized into three sections, the Peril, the Power, and Pleasure, and with an array of contributors both classic and contemporary,  Black Ink  presents the brilliant diversity of black thought in America while solidifying the importance of these writers within the greater context of the American literary tradition.”

Feel Free book cover

Love’s Long Line (21st Century Essays) by Sophfronia Scott . “Sophfronia Scott turns an unflinching eye on her life to deliver a poignant collection of essays ruminating on faith, motherhood, race, and the search for meaningful connection in an increasingly disconnected world.”

Black History Month @ GCC: BHM Texts & Essays

  • BHM Books Lobby Display
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  • BHM Texts & Essays

Long Essay + Projects

  • The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates About this Essay: Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.
  • The 1619 Project by the New York Times About this project: The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.

Short Texts

  • 5 Things You Might Not Know About The March On Washington And King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ Speech by Christopher Rhodes About this text: King and other organizers overcame many challenges to give his iconic speech, which was deeper and more radical than most people remember.
  • Tracy Drake, a testimony on Black Motherhood with Tempestt Hazel About this text: For this testimony, we hear from Tracy Drake, a formerly Chicago-based archivist who is now at the Reed College Library in Portland, Oregon. She is also one of the founding members of The Blackivists, a collective of Black archivists doing memory work with and for Black communities. This is her testimony on Black motherhood, a companion piece to a writing called A Rant from a Nerdy Black Girl by Korra, a.k.a. ZP , which focuses on Black girlhood. This piece has been lightly edited for clarity.
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ACC honors Black History Month 2024 with events, essay contest

Posted by ACC Staff | Jan 30, 2024 | What to Do at ACC | 0

ACC honors Black History Month 2024 with events, essay contest

February is Black History Month , an annual celebration of the accomplishments and contributions of Black Americans to culture and society. Austin Community College District (ACC) commemorates the month with multiple events open to ACC faculty, staff, students, and the community. 

This year’s theme is African Americans and the Arts: How the Arts shaped Black culture . The events are sponsored by ACC’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Center , African-American Cultural Center , and Black Representation of Achievement through Student Support (BRASS) program .

ACC hosts a kickoff celebration for its 2024 Black History Month event series on Thursday, February 1, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the TRHT Center (ACC Highland Campus, Building 4000). 

Other events planned in February include:

Understanding My Love for African Americans and the Arts: An East Austin Journey With Professor Roland Hayes

Thursday, February 8 | 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

ACC Eastview Campus African-American Cultural Center

Join a lively discussion with Professor Roland Hayes to learn about African-American history and culture.

Salon/Barbershop Talk: What Defines Culture?!

Thursday, February 15 

Highland Campus, Building 4000 | Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Center

Participants will join an interactive discussion examining the elements of culture and behavior, both learned and innate, and how they have and will continue to shape perspectives and preserve diverse traditions and rich artistry.

Art Exhibition: Celebrating Local Black Art and Artists

Thursday, February 22 | 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Eastview Campus, Building 2000 | African American Cultural Center

Local artists will present work, discuss factors influencing and inspiring their art, and share what it means to be a Black artist in a rapidly gentrifying space.

Essay Contest

The college also hosts a Black History Month essay contest on African-Americans and the Arts. Essays must be received via email by 5 p.m., Monday, February 19th. Please send to [email protected] . The top two essays will be awarded a $50 and $25 prize, respectively. 

More details on the events and essay contest are available on ACC’s Black History Month webpage.  

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Personal Essays on Black History Month

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In 1926, Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-trained educator, working with the Association for the Study of Negro Life established Black History Week – an opportunity to honor the largely unknown contributions of those of African descent and to celebrate the essence of a history that is integral to the narrative of America as apple pie. Nearly 100 years later (92 to be exact), black history in the United States remains incomplete, inauthentic and lopsided. The dominant narrative reinforces negative stereotypes and assumptions that devalue black and brown bodies in America. We are familiar with the common threads – school-to-prison pipeline, mass incarceration, educational achievement gaps to name a few. We are less familiar with (or perhaps less willing to acknowledge) the systemic and structural forces that sustain and lock in advantage; a self-reinforcing system that has been operating for hundreds of years. Moreover, often we recycle our praise for those commonly-known historical figures in black history; leaving a vast delta of information about the unique contributions of black people across disciplines and genres hidden, unacknowledged or forgotten. As an African American woman living in this moment, the promise and peril of what civil rights leaders in the 1950s and 1960s referred to as “beloved community,” seems ever present. It is hard to remain hopeful in the midst of such palpable divisiveness, polarizing forces, coarse language and deeds that are antithetical to creating a society that is inclusive, loving and just. Those who fought, sacrificed, and died deserve our reverence and gratitude, for sure. Significantly, however, to honor the legacy of their contributions demands not only celebratory moments, but also recommitting ourselves to action toward building beloved community. Remembering the past is important to create pathways toward greater understanding, productive dialogue, cross-cultural trust and reconciliation. Discovering those core pieces of American history is vital to building these bridges. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently published a study reflecting our failure as a nation to adequately educate about the difficult and complex history of American slavery; treating slavery as an event rather than integral part of who we are as a country. We must honestly confront our shared history and its relationship to contemporary racial gaps and inequities. Any discussion toward building beloved community cannot take place without confronting the difficult history of American slavery because this history continues to shape our conceptions of race, who belongs and fairness. With Black History Month upon us, I’m mindful of the students, scholars, activists and ordinary citizens who found the courage to remain determined and engaged in the midst of great challenges, vulnerability and danger in order to demand basic human dignity and racial justice. In fact, it was college students and other young people who declared Black History as a month-long exploration rather than a week. Confining black history to a week or month is not the point. The heart of the matter for me is that context matters. This moment signifies our shared history—black history matters for all of us—the story of how America developed, prospered and created an imperfect union, one that continues to bear fruit in rich and complex ways. It’s about educating ourselves and discovering those foundational pieces and hard truths of American history like the enslavement of free people of African descent, genocidal acts like lynching, segregation and the discrimination of Jim Crow, along with the numerous contributions made by black people to the fabric of American life and culture, as well as its infrastructure and industrial capacity. We remember so others will not forget; to affirm and to build a better world. We cannot change that which we do not know and understand or for which we hold little or no respect and curiosity. This month and beyond, I will acknowledge with pride those whose efforts continue to inspire and make history—from the freedom fighters of the Civil Rights Movement (too numerous to name), the vibrancy of the Harlem Renaissance, Pauli Murray, Audre Lorde; to more contemporary history makers including Black Lives Matter, Colin Kaepernick, Ana Duvernay, Shonda Rhimes, Beyoncé, authors like Ibram Kendi and Isabel Wilkerson, Black Panther – the movie, to the official portraits of former President Obama and Michelle Obama, both created by black artists whose subjects and works will hang in the National Gallery for all time. Additionally, as CDO, I will continue to build our capacity to embed and infuse diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the strategic priorities of the institution and to cultivate more productive ways of engaging across differences. The goal is that SU is a place where we harness the power of our differences, embrace creative tension and grow together. I remain hopeful in the midst of challenging times because of the courageous citizens on this campus and beyond who are doing their part to build a more just and humane society—toward beloved community. – Natasha Martin Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion

I’m half Black, half Cuban. Growing up my father never spoke Spanish in the house and I never asked why. My father was a man that never saw color, he always believed you should “trust the soul of a man rather than the look of him.” (Remember the Titans–Coach Yoast). In Petersburg, Va., where I was born and raised, my father became the first Negro in the 60’s to drive a city bus. At the time this was unheard of. He battled his way through racism, and other challenges of negative behavior because he was the only black bus driver for Petersburg Va. Transit Co. (see cover photo). I can remember my mother telling me a story about father’s first week at work. She described it as “hell pure”. Your father pulls up and says, “good morning everyone.” The white passengers were furious and they would not board the bus. So, a group of blacks walked pass the group of white passengers and boarded the bus, deposited their fare and said, “good morning.” After a few minutes the white passengers began to board the bus. They shouted racial slurs, they spit on my father and other passengers and said “hey nigger whose bus did you steal?” as they walked passed him. On top of that, they didn’t pay their fare. When all the passengers got seated, my father put the bus in park and removed his seat belt and stood up. He wasn’t a small man. He stood tall at a height of 6ft 5inches. He began to speak to all the passengers on the bus. This is what he said, “I’m the bus driver and this my route, but if I’m the driver of this bus, you will not disrespect me, put your hands on me or spit on me. Lastly if you have a problem with what I said or I have offended you, you can just remove yourself from my bus.” He returned to his seat, fastened his seat belt, and put the bus in gear and started driving toward Downtown Petersburg. During the bus ride the atmosphere on the bus was so silent you could hear a pin drop. After about a 50-minute bus ride, the bus arrives in Downtown Petersburg. The bus comes to a stop and my father opens the door and all passengers began to exit. As white passengers walked past my father to exit the bus, they deposited their fare and shook my fathers hand and apologized to him and the last white passenger asked if they would we him see later that day, to which my father responded, “yes you will and I will get you home safe to your family.” Black History Month, to me, means a celebration of knowledge. It’s a reflection of the past, present and future in African American Culture. It’s a reminder of all the positive and innovative things that have come from our culture and how it made a huge impact on future generations. It is a time for everyone to experience culture and the roots of many things that have evolved from those of African American decent. Also it’s a time to inform everyone who may not be exposed to African American History the rest of the year. Let’s all take the time to remember the hardships and struggle, but it doesn’t stop there. It’s a remembrance of what we strive for and how the ones before us have paved a way for the things we have today. – Ricco Bland Public Safety Officer

My grandmother was the most influential person in my life until her death in 1997. Today, I draw inspiration both from her memory and the legacy of love and compassion she left behind. I experienced a safe, secure, loving childhood that occurred at the valuable intersection of two circumstances; the youth of my parents and the love of my grandmother. I was positioned to witness the broad range of painful human experiences and given a unique set of assets and blessings that allowed me the ability to develop and grow my understanding of the world I inhabit. Early in my upbringing, my grandmother introduced me to the writings of W.E.B. DuBois. And while I was not fully capable on my own of making sense of his writings as a youngster, the messages of his experiences spoke truth to my reality as I began to mature and grow in my understanding of the world around me. His words of the early 1900s still ring true for me today and underscore the significance of Black History Month in my life so I share them with you in that spirit. After the Egyptian and the Indian, the Greek and the Roman, the Teuton and the Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. (DuBois, 1903) Accordingly, Black History Month is less a month and more a movement that remains alive in me with each breath I take. It is represented in my family who gave me voice and liberated me from the poor rural up bringing that shackled so many before and after me. Black History Month is about deliverance, freedom, reframing experiences, renaming reality and retelling the truth. H. Alexander Welcome (2004) asserted: The life histories of Whites are used as the standard against which Blacks are encouraged to strive. The employment of this ontology fallaciously limits the range of Black agency, producing deceitful narratives where the navigation of the social environment by Blacks is dictated by either a passive response to, or a passive adoption of, White scripts. The utilization of whiteness to determine and/or evaluate blackness begins when whiteness and White life histories come to represent what is “right.” (p. 61) Black History is about transformation, consciousness, definition, and debunking myths and lies. It is represented in the narratives and oral histories of my ancestors told to me by my grandparents and parents and to be shared forward with my own children and the generations to come. It is about an increased understanding of the contributions of Black people throughout our muddled history. It is ultimately about truth and reconciliation. – Alvin Sturdivant Vice President, Student Development

Picture Detroit, Michigan in the 1970’s and you can begin to imagine my childhood. By the time I was ten years old, the mayor of Detroit was a black man, Coleman Young. The superintendent of public schools, Arthur Jefferson, was also a black man. I was blessed to grow up in times permeated by James Brown (“I’m black and I’m proud), the Black Panthers, dashikis, afro hair, and going every Sunday to Triedstone Baptist Church and later Detroit’s Afro-American Mission. In my memory, I hear people reminding me that the history of my race was something of which to be proud. Calendars my parents received from black businesses in town served as black history storybooks. (I honestly can’t remember if they were sent by funeral homes or insurance agencies.) Every year, we received a new calendar depicting black people succeeding in various fields such as Dorie Miller, a Navy gunner killed at Pearl Harbor and honored for his bravery, and Ida B. Wells, the journalist and sociologist who brought lynching into the national consciousness. Black history was not confined to a month at my public school. Yet, February afforded an opportunity for heightened reflections on what it meant to be black in America. Today, February still feels like a time to remember, to catch hold of the past and allow it to inspire me in the present. I recently joked with a friend that I should write a book titled “The Re-education of this Negro” as I have struggled with the times – police brutality against young black men and women, regular reminders of mass incarceration and injustice under the law. At times, the bleakness of the current day overwhelms me. I wish I could say that seeing all of the wrongs propels me toward solutions but at times I feel immobilized by the weight of racism. In contrast, it seems to me that Dr. Woodson called black people to have a knowledge of history because an understanding of the accomplishments of one’s forbears was essential to inspiration, aspiration, and justice. Increasingly, as I struggle with this present darkness I feel the need to draw on the dreams and victories of those who came before. I want to remember how they maintained faith and laughter as well as how tears and sorrow drove them forward. What’s black history month to me? It is both a call and a light. Black history month is the call of many voices saying “Remember. Press on.” Black history month is a light in the darkness that shows a way forward. Black history is about more than a month but this month reminds me to pause and locate myself within history. – Holly Slay Ferraro Associate Professor, Management

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essay about black history month

Regions Riding Forward® Scholarship Contest

essay about black history month

Their Story. Your Voice.

Your voice is your own. But it's also been impacted by others. Who, we wonder, has inspired you? Let us know by entering the Regions Riding Forward Scholarship Contest. 

You could win an $8,000 college scholarship

For the opportunity to win an $8,000 scholarship, submit a video or written essay about an individual you know personally (who lives in your community) who has inspired you and helped you build the confidence you need to achieve your goals.

essay about black history month

The details

The 2024 Regions Riding Forward Scholarship Contest consists of four (4) separate Quarterly Contests - one for each calendar quarter of 2024. Regions is awarding four $8,000 scholarships through each Quarterly Contest.

Each Quarterly Contest has its own separate entry period, as provided in the chart below.

The entry deadline for each Quarterly Contest is 11:59:59 PM Central Time on the applicable Quarterly Contest period end date (set forth in the chart above).

No purchase or banking relationship required.

Regions believes in supporting the students whose passion and actions every day will continue to make stories worth sharing. That’s why we have awarded over $1 million in total scholarships to high school and college students.

How to enter, 1. complete an online quarterly contest application.

Enter the Regions Riding Forward Scholarship Contest by completing a Quarterly Contest application.  The second Quarterly Contest runs from April 1, 2024 through June 30, 2024. Complete and save all requested information. 

2. Prepare your Written Essay or Video Essay

For each Quarterly Contest, the topic of your Written Essay or Video Essay (your “Essay Topic”) must be an individual you know personally, who lives in your community. Your Written Essay or Video Essay must address how the individual you have selected as your Essay Topic has inspired you and helped you build the confidence you need to achieve your goals.

Written Essay and Video Essay submissions must meet all of the requirements described in the contest Official Rules. Your Written Essay or Video Essay must be (i) in English, (ii) your own original work, created solely by you (and without the use of any means of artificial intelligence (“AI”)), and (iii) the exclusive property of you alone.

Written Essays must be 500 words or less. You can write your Written Essay directly in the application, or you can copy and paste it into the appropriate area in the application form.

Video Essay submissions must be directly uploaded to the contest application site. Video Essays must be no more than 3 minutes in length and no larger than 1 GB. Only the following file formats are accepted: MP4, MPG, MOV, AVI, and WMV. Video Essays must not contain music of any kind nor display any illegal, explicit, or inappropriate material, and Video Essays must not be password protected or require a log-in/sign-in to view. You must upload your Video Essay to the application, and you may not submit your Video Essay in DVD or other physical form. (Video Essays submitted via mail will not be reviewed or returned.)

Tips to Record Quality Videos on a Smartphone:

  • Don’t shoot vertical video. Computer monitors have landscape-oriented displays, so shoot your video horizontally.
  • Use a tripod. Even small movements can make a big difference when editing.
  • Don’t use zoom. If you need to get a close shot of the subject, move closer as zooming can cause pixilation.
  • Use natural lighting. Smartphone lighting can wash out your video.

3. Review and submit your Quarterly Contest application

Review your information on your Quarterly Application (and check the spelling of a Written Essay) and submit your entry by 11:59:59 p.m. Central Time on the applicable Quarterly Contest period end date. The second Quarterly Contest period end date is June 30, 2024.

4. Await notification

Winning entries are selected by an independent panel of judges who are not affiliated with Regions. If your entry is selected as a Quarterly Contest winner, you will need to respond to ISTS with the required information.

Eligibility

For purposes of this contest:

  • The “Eligible States” are defined as the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
  • An “accredited college” is defined as a nonprofit, two- or four-year college or university located within one of the fifty (50) United States or the District of Columbia.

To be eligible to enter this contest and to win an award in a Quarterly Contest, at the time of entry, you must:

  • Be a legal U.S. resident of one of the Eligible States.
  • Be age 16 or older.
  • Have at least one (1) year (or at least 18 semester hours) remaining before college graduation.
  • If you are not yet in college, begin your freshman year of college no later than the start of the 2025 – 2026 college academic school year.
  • As of your most recent school enrollment period, have a cumulative grade point average of at least 2.0 in school (and if no GPA is provided at school, be in “good standing” or the equivalent thereof in school).

View Official Rules

NO PURCHASE OR BANKING RELATIONSHIP REQUIRED. PURCHASE OR BANKING RELATIONSHIP WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. The 2024 Regions Riding Forward Scholarship Contest (the “Contest”) consists of four (4) separate quarterly contests (each a “Quarterly Contest”): (1) the “Q-1 Contest;” (2) the “Q-2 Contest;” (3) the “Q-3 Contest;” and (4) the “Q-4 Contest.” The Q-1 Contest begins on 02/01/24 and ends on 03/31/24; the Q-2 Contest begins on 04/01/24 and ends on 06/30/24; the Q-3 Contest begins on 07/01/24 and ends on 09/30/24; and the Q-4 Contest begins on 10/01/24 and ends on 12/31/24. (For each Quarterly Contest, entries must be submitted and received by 11:59:59 PM CT on the applicable Quarterly Contest period end date.) To enter and participate in a particular Quarterly Contest, at the time of entry, you must: (a) be a legal U.S. resident of one of the Eligible States; (b) be 16 years of age or older; (c) have at least one (1) year (or at least 18 semester hours) remaining before college graduation; (d) (if you are not yet in college) begin your freshman year of college no later than the start of the 2025 – 2026 college academic school year; and (e) as of your most recent school enrollment period, have a cumulative grade point average of at least 2.0 in school (and if no grade point average is provided at school, be in “good standing” or the equivalent thereof in school). (For purposes of Contest, the “Eligible States” are defined as the states of AL, AR, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MS, MO, NC, SC, TN and TX.) Visit regions.com/ridingforward for complete Contest details, including eligibility and Written Essay and Video Essay requirements and Official Rules. (Limit one (1) entry per person, per Quarterly Contest.) For each Quarterly Contest, eligible entries will be grouped according to form of entry (Written Essay or Video Essay) and judged by a panel of independent, qualified judges. A total of four (4) Quarterly Contest Prizes will be awarded in each Quarterly Contest, consisting of two (2) Quarterly Contest Prizes for the Written Essay Entry Group and two (2) Quarterly Contest Prizes for the Video Essay Entry Group. Each Quarterly Contest Prize consists of a check in the amount of $8,000 made out to winner’s designated accredited college. (Limit one (1) Quarterly Contest Prize per person; a contestant is permitted to win only one (1) Quarterly Contest Prize through the Contest.) Sponsor: Regions Bank, 1900 Fifth Ave. N., Birmingham, AL 35203.

© 2024 Regions Bank. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender. Regions and the Regions logo are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.

2023 Winners

High school:.

  • Amyrrean Acoff
  • Leon Aldridge
  • Kharis Andrews
  • Colton Collier
  • Indya Griffin
  • Christopher Hak
  • Aquil Hayes
  • Jayden Haynes
  • McKenna Jodoin
  • Paris Kelly
  • Liza Latimer
  • Dylan Lodle
  • Anna Mammarelli
  • Karrington Manley
  • Marcellus Odum
  • Gautami Palthepu
  • Melody Small
  • Lauryn Tanner
  • Joshua Wilson
  • Mohamed Ali
  • Kayla Bellamy
  • Lauren Boxx
  • Alexandria Brown
  • Samuel Brown
  • Thurston Brown
  • Conner Daehler
  • Tsehai de Souza
  • Anjel Echols
  • Samarion Flowers
  • Trinity Griffin
  • Kristina Hilton
  • Ryan Jensen
  • Miracle Jones
  • Shaniece McGhee
  • Chelby Melvin
  • Lamiya Ousley
  • Kiera Phillips
  • Gabrielle Pippins
  • Ethan Snead
  • Sydney Springs
  • Kirsten Tilford
  • Tamira Weeks
  • Justin Williams

2022 Winners

  • Paul Aucremann
  • William Booker
  • Robyn Cunningham
  • Kani'ya Davis
  • Oluwatomi Dugbo
  • Lillian Goins
  • Parker Hall
  • Collin Hatfield
  • Gabrielle Izu
  • Kylie Lauderdale
  • Jacob Milan
  • Jackson Mitchell
  • Carmen Moore
  • Madison Morgan
  • Kaden Oquelí-White
  • Kaylin Parks
  • Brian Perryman
  • De'Marco Riggins
  • Brianna Roundtree
  • Sydney Russell
  • Carlie Spore
  • Morgan Standifer
  • Ionia Thomas
  • Ramaya Thomas
  • Jaylen Toran
  • Amani Veals
  • Taylor Williams
  • Alana Wilson
  • Taryn Wilson
  • Aryaunna Armstrong
  • Hannah Blackwell
  • T'Aneka Bowers
  • Naomi Bradley
  • Arianna Cannon
  • Taylor Cline
  • Catherine Cummings
  • Margaret Fitzgerald
  • Chloe Franklin
  • Camryn Gaines
  • Thomas Greer
  • Kayla Helleson
  • Veronica Holmes
  • Logan Kurtz
  • Samuel Lambert
  • Jaylon Muchison
  • Teresa Odom
  • Andrew Payne
  • Carey Price
  • Emily SantiAnna
  • Curtis Smith
  • Jered Smith
  • Mariah Standifer
  • Maura Taylor
  • Anna Wilkes

An Essay on Black History Month

By lawyer, activist and ceo angela rye.

By Google Arts & Culture

Words by Angela Rye

Activism begins with a very important question: why NOT me or why NOT you or why NOT us? And the answer: this – whatever “this” is: Slavery/mass incarceration, lynchings/police killings, Dr. King’s concept of shedding nobodyness/BLM, MeToo)—this shall not be.

My Dad named me after Angela Davis, a scholar and activist most known for her work with the Black Panther Party. Our name means "bringer of truth" or "messenger of God." For me, that meant telling my teachers when history books misrepresented black people. My Dad is the same dude that ran one of the Panthers’ Free Breakfast programs from his job – Central Area Motivation Program. My Dad is a bullhorn-toting, large banner–waving protestor. He loves to march and protest–well, I don’t know if he loves to, but he definitely doesn’t miss the opportunity to engage in protest. When people ask my Dad how he’s doing, he normally replies: “I’m just out here fighting this racism, man.” That statement is normally followed by him spouting statistics about disparities in contracting, education, or the criminal justice system in Washington state. All proof that racism is alive and well. I didn’t get bit by the protesting and marching bug like my Dad and I, in fact, have shunned the term “activist” for most of my adult life. Being a lawyer, I suppose I believed activism was a less strategic form of ensuring advancement for our people. And I was wrong. I didn’t always agree with Dad on the means, but we certainly agree on the end goal. Racism must die. THAT I have always agreed with. As the child of a protestor, I grew up singing ‘power to the people, the people’s power.’ I grew up SINGING “We shall overcome” but not SEEING it. We’d say: “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” But where was justice?

Angela Rye for Black History Month

Angela Rye, photo by Alexander Laurent courtesy of Mass Appeal

We chanted “Power to the people, the people’s power...getting stronger by the hour.” But was it really? At an early age my mom took me to see a Bobby Seale lecture. He had me at “All power to the people.” I was IN! All power to the people meant trying to determine how to re-start the Black Panther Party, which proved to be challenging at our all-girls, predominantly white Catholic school. So I settled for starting a Black Student Union with my best friend. All power to the people meant serving on a committee developed by the Seattle police chief, to address excessive force and police brutality in my hometown. It meant serving as a youth chaplain to the King County Juvenile Detention Center while I was in college. It meant running a computer lab at a community center, so people like me had access to technology. It meant tutoring black high school students to make sure they got into college.

Knowing the history instilled in me from my parents, I knew we’d been at this a long time, the sacrifice of our ancestors activism too often resulting in death or imprisonment – Nat, Denmark, Huey, Afeni. With progress there’s always a step backwards, but that step backwards did not mean the people’s power was gone. It just meant we needed more to preserve the change we sought and continue to seek. So I began to pursue power for good – again. It is with that willpower that I will fight for every BLACK LIFE that mattered, that matters, and that will matter. And it is with that will power that I will continue to engage in work that will make freedom a reality for the next generation – in the face of the all obstacles, including the false equivalency that “BOTH SIDES” are to blame. My activism is for everyone taking a knee who knows we weren't considered in the Declaration of Independence, the National Anthem, or this country’s flag. I stand on the shoulders of amazing women like Assata and Harriet and Sojourner and Dorothy and Angela and Ida and Queen Maxine and Tarana – every Black woman freedom fighter who made EVERY movement we’ve known in this country possible.

My activism is rooted in love because love will fuel the flame that empowers us to protect our power, our justice, and our freedom. Whether it’s sharing a hashtag on social media, using my platform to spread truth on issues impacting our community, challenging the community to be more diligent about supporting our businesses and our organizations – my activism is not optional. Now when people ask me how I am doing…too often I reply like my father: just out here fighting this racism, man. I pray neither of us will have to say that much longer. It’s time for racism to die. It's time to not just STAY woke, it's time to WORK woke. Our brighter future depends on it.

Words by Angela Rye | Photo by Alexander Laurent courtesy of Mass Appeal

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COMMENTS

  1. Black History Month

    The idea for a Black History Month was first conceived by the historian Carter G. Woodson and members of his Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History). Together they organized a Negro History Week, beginning in February 1926. They selected the month of February for this celebration because it was close to the ...

  2. Here's the story behind Black History Month

    At the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963, African Americans carry placards demanding equal rights, integrated schools, decent housing and an end to bias. Every February, the U.S. honors the ...

  3. Knowing the Past Opens the Door to the Future: The Continuing

    His other goal was to increase the visibility of black life and history, at a time when few newspapers, books, and universities took notice of the black community, except to dwell upon the negative. Ultimately Woodson believed Negro History Week—which became Black History Month in 1976—would be a vehicle for racial transformation forever.

  4. How Negro History Week Became Black History Month and Why It Matters

    Every year since 1928, Negro History Week, and later Black History Month, has centered on a theme. This year's theme is "The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity." 1932

  5. Black History Month 2024: Facts, Theme & Origins

    Since 1976, every American president has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme. The Black History Month 2024 theme, " African Americans and the Arts ...

  6. Black History Month Is About Seeing America Clearly

    Guest Essay. Black History Month Is About Seeing America Clearly. Feb. 20, 2022. A woman who was born into enslavement in Alabama. ... By the time Black History Month rolled into full swing, my ...

  7. What you need to know about the origins of Black History Month

    The civil rights and Black Power movement advocated for an official shift from Black History Week to Black History Month, Scott said, and, in 1976, on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of ...

  8. Black History: Facts, People & Month

    Black history is the story of African Americans in the United States and elsewhere. Learn about Black History Month, Black leaders, the Great Migration, the civil rights movement and more.

  9. Black History Month 2021 essay: The only way forward is through

    Why Black History Month feels a little different in 2021. USA Today's Enterprise Editor for Racism and History, Nichelle Smith discusses the need to move forward with a new sensibility. It's an ...

  10. Black History Month: What is it and why do we need it?

    Black History Month is an opportunity to understand Black histories, going beyond stories of racism and slavery to spotlight Black achievement. This year's theme is African Americans and the Arts. February is Black History Month. This month-long observance in the US and Canada is a chance to celebrate Black achievement and provide a fresh ...

  11. Celebrating Black History With The New York Times

    These projects explore Black history in depth and from a variety of angles — connecting history to the present. Sanitation workers prepared to demonstrate on March 28, 1968, as part of a labor ...

  12. The Important Political History of Black History Month

    Originally founded in 1926 as Negro History Week by the famed educator and groundbreaking historian Carter G. Woodson, Black History Month is the product of Black teachers' long-standing ...

  13. Black History Month: The Importance of Knowing African American History

    In this black history month essay, I want to argue that knowing our black history would help America be better stewards of the privileges we've gained. Also, it would create awareness for all people. Say no to plagiarism. Get a tailor-made essay on 'Why Violent Video Games Shouldn't Be Banned'?

  14. What Does Black History Month Mean To You?

    Black History Month means the appreciation and acknowledgement of Blackness and how it permeates all aspects of society. It's the recognition of people and a culture that transcends the racist and imperial formations of the United States. It is a celebration of Black men, women, nonbinary, trans, disabled folx.

  15. Black History Month: Essay Collections, a Reading List

    As we wrap up our celebration of Black History Month, we want to share one more reading list — this time we focus on essay collections. Here are some of our favorites and recommendations. We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This is a collection of essays by Ta-Nehisi Coates, published originally in The ...

  16. An Introduction Into Black History Month History Essay

    Black History Month lets the people who have stood up to this and strived for a difference in the way black and white man is treated be remembered and appreciated. In history further back and during the time of change, blacks had gone through slavery, Africville tragedy and other unjust acts. They had been discriminated, ignored, and overall ...

  17. Black History Month @ GCC: BHM Texts & Essays

    About this project: The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.

  18. Black History Month Essay Contest 2024

    Essays should be original, and written entirely by the applicant. Applicants may only submit one essay for consideration. Essays should be submitted as PDF files, formatted as follows: 12-point Times New Roman or similar font; double-spaced; author's full name, student number and email address in the header; pages numbered.

  19. Black History Essay Competition

    Background. Dr. Carter G. Woodson is considered the Father of Black History. He received his high school diploma from Frederick Douglass High School in Huntington, West Virginia, in 1896, and returned four years later as principal. A statue of Dr. Woodson is located at 820 Hall Greer Blvd., in Huntington.

  20. Marshall announces centennial celebration of Negro History Week/Black

    A centerpiece of the centennial celebration will be an Online Black History Courses Program of entry-level, non-credit courses (See upcoming separate release). Observances will also include a series of symposia in 2026, preceded by a Call for Papers in 2025 inviting presentations. Details for these activities will be provided later.

  21. Black History Month

    Addressing inequality served as inspiration for NaLonai Tisinger's winning essay in The Tribune-Democrat's Black History Month contest. The Greater Johnstown High School sophomore writes that ...

  22. ACC honors Black History Month 2024 with events, essay contest

    Essay Contest. The college also hosts a Black History Month essay contest on African-Americans and the Arts. Essays must be received via email by 5 p.m., Monday, February 19th. Please send to [email protected]. The top two essays will be awarded a $50 and $25 prize, respectively.

  23. Personal Essays on Black History Month

    Black history month is the call of many voices saying "Remember. Press on.". Black history month is a light in the darkness that shows a way forward. Black history is about more than a month but this month reminds me to pause and locate myself within history. - Holly Slay FerraroAssociate Professor, Management.

  24. Riding Forward Scholarship Contest

    The 2024 Regions Riding Forward Scholarship Contest consists of four (4) separate Quarterly Contests - one for each calendar quarter of 2024. Regions is awarding four $8,000 scholarships through each Quarterly Contest. Each Quarterly Contest has its own separate entry period, as provided in the chart below. The entry deadline for each Quarterly ...

  25. An Essay on Black History Month

    By lawyer, activist and CEO Angela Rye