Every February, people in the United States celebrate the achievements and history of African Americans as part of Black History Month. Going beyond stories of racism and slavery, this month-long celebration honors the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans in different fields such as science, politics, law, sports, the arts, entertainment, and many other fields.

In recent years, countries like Canada, UK, Germany, and the Netherlands have also started celebrating this month along with the United States.

As part of the celebration, schools and communities nationwide organize local functions, establish history clubs, and host performances and lectures to bring the black people’s achievements to light.

Black History Month Pic

How Did It Start?

Much of the credit for this day goes to Carter G. Woodson, a pioneer in the study of African American history. He is also famously known as the father of Black History.

Perturbed by ignorance of America’s Black population’s accomplishments in American History, Carter G. Woodson co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915.

In 1926, this group declared the second week of February as “Negro History Week” to recognize the accomplishments of the African Americans in U.S history.

This week-long event officially became Black History Month in 1976 when U.S president Gerald Ford extended the recognition and said “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Why February?

Woodson chose the second week of February for this celebration as it marks the birthdays of two great men who influenced the black population.

  • President Abraham Lincoln – February 12
  • Frederick Douglass – February 14

What Does It Honor?

It honors Black people from all the periods of U.S history. It started as a way of teaching students and young people about Black and African American’s contributions, who have impacted not just the country but the world with their acts.

Here are some of the notable figures who are often recognized during Black History Month.

  1. Martin Luther King Jr. – Fought for equal rights for Blacks during the 1950s and ’60s.
  2. Thurgood Marshall – First African American justice appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1967.
  3. Mae Jemison – First female African American astronaut to travel to space in 1992.
  4. Barack Obama – First-ever African American president of the United States in 2008.

Black History Month 2021 Theme

Every year, African American Life and History (ASAALH) – the group originally founded by Woodson – chooses the theme for the celebrations. This year’s theme is The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.

It explores the diasporic nature of the African family – both the individual families whose members are spread out across different states, nations, and continents, but also the wider perception of the African diaspora as the “Black family at large”.

Also, organizations like Black Lives Matter are using the month to look ahead, celebrating Black Future Month, as well as black history.

Five Women Writing the Black History

1.      Alicia Garza

Black History Month - Alicia

Alicia Garza is an American civil rights activist and writer known for co-founding the international Black Lives Matter movement. She has organized movements around the issues of health, student services and rights, rights for domestic workers, ending police brutality, anti-racism, and violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people of color.

2.      Bozoma Saint John

Black History Month - Bozoma

Bozoma Saint John is an American businessperson and marketing executive who is currently the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Netflix. Skilled in the world of marketing, branding, and technology, she was heavily sought after for her successful strategies by big names such as record producer and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine, who recruited her to lead marketing for the company.

She has been the recipient of numerous awards, named Executive of the Year by Billboard Magazine, and featured in lists such as Fortune Magazine’s “Disruptors, Innovators & Stars 40 Under 40,” Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People”, and more.

3.      Kizzmekia Corbett

Kizzmekia Shanta Corbett (born January 26, 1986) is an American viral immunologist at the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health (NIAID NIH) based in Bethesda, Maryland.

She is a research fellow and scientific lead at the National Institute of Health, who is right at the forefront of the development of the vaccine. Working with a team of scientists, Corbett is studying Moderna’s vaccine, one of the two COVID-19 vaccines shown to be effective by more than 90 percent.

4.      Amanda Gorman

Amanda S. C. Gorman is an American poet and activist. She became the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017. Her work majorly focuses on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization, as well as the African diaspora.

She recently came into light during U.S President Joe Biden’s inauguration where she gave a stunning five and a half minute recital of her poem “ The Hill We Climb”.  The Harvard graduate made history as the youngest-ever poet to recite at a presidential inauguration.

5.      Serena Williams 

Serena Williams - Black Women

Serena Jameka Williams, an American professional tennis player and former world No. 1 in women’s singles tennis. Williams holds the most Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles combined among active players. She also became the first woman in the professional era with at least one title in four decades: the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s

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