Honoring Black history in February combines the opportunity to celebrate Black achievement with a challenge to learn more.
While Black history certainly did not begin here, it has been part of America’s history since before America existed. The history of Black people holds rich, inspiring stories of culture, adventure, innovation, creativity and overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles to triumph in a society that did all it could to prevent that.
Honoring the unquenchable spirit, tenacity and resilience that has been shining at the center of Black life for the whole 400+ years that Black people have been here. It is also important to recognize that the excellence began where the people began, in Africa. And, that there are still forces in the US working to dehumanize, denigrate, marginalize and limit people of color that must be stopped.
At Diversity Crew, we work with corporations, nonprofits, academia, and government to help make equity, inclusion, belonging and justice part of our culture. We celebrate Black History Month for all that it teaches and invites us to learn.
The Paradox of Black History Month
The paradox of Black History Month is that it is not possible to celebrate Black excellence without acknowledging the horrors of the heinous treatment, whipping, maiming, raping, killing, lynching, and more, that the ancestors of white Americans inflicted upon African Americans heroes. When we think about it, that any survived is amazing, that many flourished, and some succeeded in incredible ways against all odds makes me always want to learn more. Where did they get the courage that made them keep trying to overcome?
Did you know?
- All humans living today descended from a population that lived in east Africa around 200,000 years ago.
- Some of the world’s first great empires originated in northern Africa around 4,000 B.C.E.
- The first prominent Black landowner in Virginia gained freedom between 1625 and 1640 and owned a prosperous 250-acre farm by 1651
- There were more than 1,500 Black public office holders in 12 states and the District of Columbia during Reconstruction
- The real Lone Ranger was a Black former slave
- One of the first American self-made millionaires was a Black woman
- Automatic elevator doors, refrigerated trucks, the three light traffic symbol and the first color computer monitor were all invented by African Americans
This is a tiny taste of the history that Carter G. Woodson and his peers believed every American should know and be proud of. He was right.
Black History Month Themes
Each year since Negro History Week began has had an educational theme for study and discussion. The first two were Civilization: A World Achievement, in 1928 and, Possibility of Putting Negro History in the Curriculum in 1929. The irony that much Negro History is still not present in curriculum today cannot be missed.
Black Health and Wellness is the 2022 theme. This theme acknowledges the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also throughout the African Diaspora and considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well.
Black history belongs in year-round teaching and learning. We hope this series has and will pique your interest in learning more about Black History Month, celebrating the Americans who made it, and selecting at least one way to make it personal for you.
To learn more from Kymberlaine Banks, check out her full company profile. Diversity Crew works with corporations, nonprofits, academia, and government to help make equity, inclusion, belonging and justice part of our culture. We can help you make it part of your culture wherever you lead. Contact us at LetsGo@DiversityCrew.com to get started today.
The Association for the Study of African American Life and History – https://asalh.org/ – Established on September 9, 1915, by Dr. Carter G. Woodson
Black History Month – https://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/ – The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society
National Park Service African American Heritage 36 parks and sites – https://www.nps.gov/subjects/africanamericanheritage/visit.htm – Though perhaps not the primary purpose for a park’s founding, these National Park Service sites celebrate and honor the African American Stories within their boundaries and communities.
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/19/magazine/history-slavery-smithsonian.html – A brief history of slavery that you didn’t learn in school – from the 1619 project –
A History of Black Achievement in America – Preview – This original, nine-part series documents Black Achievement in American history, its defining role in the growth of the country, and its influence on current events. Presented by James Avery, the series highlights the many contributions of Black Americans that have influenced our culture, enriched our society with their achievements, and shaped the history of the United States. – watch on Amazon Prime
I Am Not Your Negro – Official trailer – 2017 Oscar nominated film, directed by Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished – a radical narration about race in America – watch on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu
Freedom Riders – Official trailer – 2011 5 Emmy nominations, 3 wins – watch on PBS Independent Lens – The two-hour documentary is based on Raymond Arsenault’s book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. – watch on PBS
The Black Power Mixtape 1967 – 1975 – Watch Trailer – 2011 African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) Best Documentary – watch on Amazon Prime
 Matthew Skinner, The Science Behind the Discovery of the Oldest Homo Sapien, Smithsonian Magazine, June 7, 2017 https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/genetics-anthropology-solve-mysteries-human-evolution-180963608/
 Encyclopedia.com, Africa: From Birth to Civilization, https://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/africa-birth-civilization
 Deborah McNally, Anthony Johnson (? – 1670), Black Past, December 14, 2010, https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/johnson-anthony-1670/
 The Reconstruction Era and the Fragility of Democracy, Facing History and Ourselves, https://www.facinghistory.org/reconstruction-era/black-officeholders-south
 Art T. Burton, Was Bass Reeves the Real Lone Ranger?, TrueWest magazine, https://truewestmagazine.com/article/was-bass-reeves-the-real-lone-ranger/
 Annie Turnbo Malone was one of the country’s first Black millionaires. She started Poro Co., which made hair and beauty products for the Black community. She hired the young Sarah Breedlove as one of her door-to-door sales agents. https://freemaninstitute.com/poro.htm
 Than Morgan, 8 Black Inventors Who Made Daily Life Easier, history.com, https://www.history.com/news/8-black-inventors-african-american