The month of February is designated as Black History Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of Black people.
The precursor to Black History Month was in 1926, when the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) sponsored a national Negro History Week. As a result of the growing awareness of Black identity through the civil rights movement, Black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University first proposed Black History Month in February 1969. One year later, the first celebration took place at Kent State from January 2 to February 28. In 1976, President Gerald Ford made the month official.
The theme of this year’s Black History Month is “Resistance,” which is meant to commemorate the historic and ongoing oppression endured by the Black community.
The Black population in the United States is diverse and has varied histories and identities. The Pew Research Center (2019) indicates 46.8 million people in the U.S. identified their race as Black in 2019. According to the 2020 Decennial Census, 70,994 people make up the Black population in the San Fernando Valley. About 385,000 people live in San Bernardino County, per the latest census results.
Although often used interchangeably, not all Black people are African American. “Black” refers to people of African descent no matter their nationality. “African American” is nation-specific and refers to people who were born in the United States and have African ancestry. Some individuals prefer to identify as Black because they do not classify themselves as African and/or American.
Black Americans have contributed greatly to the nation’s economy, field of medicine, athletics, art and culture. Selma Burke of North Carolina was a famous sculptor whose work can be seen on the dime, which depicts her bronze relief portrait of President Franklin Roosevelt. Prince, Jimi Hendrix, and Aretha Franklin were trailblazers in music. George Washington Carver, Percy Julian, and Mae Carol Jemison made significant contributions to the field of science. Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Jesse Owens, Tiger Woods, and Lebron James are some of the most celebrated athletes of all time. President Barack Obama made history when he was sworn in as the first Black president of the United States, and Vice President Kamala Harris did the same as the nation’s first Black vice president.
Below are resources for additional learning:
- The National Gallery of Art: https://www.nga.gov/features/african-american-artists.html
- The Met: https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/collection-insights/2021/black-history-month-videos
- Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch
- Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcom X by Ilyasah Shabazz
- I Am Enough by Grace Byers
- Skin Like Mine by LaTashia Perry
- Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison
- Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
- Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
- Follow Chester! by Gloria Respress-Churchwell
Continuing Education Websites:
- PBS LearningMedia: https://ca.pbslearningmedia.org/
- Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/
- National Archives: https://www.archives.gov/
- Digital Public Library of America: https://dp.la/
- Scholastic.com: https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/teaching-tools/home.html