A Month of Heritage & Celebration
Black History month is officially celebrated in the month of February marking the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans throughout US History.
Throughout history, African Americans have contributed much to not only the modern American lifestyle but to the world at large. Black History Month is observed in the US and Canada in February with other European countries observing the holiday in October. Science, television, politics, music and more have all been greatly touched by the hand of blacks down through the years. Dr. Carter G. Woodson known as “the father of black history”, started the precursor to Black History Month in America in 1926. Then called Negro History Week, it’s focus emphasized teaching students the history of black Americans. Black History Month was officially recognized in 1976 by President Gerald Ford. Countries like the United Kingdom and Canada followed suit in 1987 and 1995 respectively. Black History Month has been celebrated in schools, churches and community centers across the country. Many have learned about the black experience and in doing so become a part of the fight against the racial divide.
Although Black History Month historically has been received well, more recently the month long celebration has come under attack. Some believe that the month long celebration divides the country because it only applies to one race. Others also feel that hearing about the same personalities year after year, is ineffective calling it stale and boring. I however am not only an advocate for Black History Month, but also understand how it has become a stalemate in teaching about the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans.
Here are three big ways, you can make Black History Month fun and enjoyable for you and your family this year.
Apply Black History to your life.
Since the time of slavery, blacks have used ingenuity to make their lives and the lives of others easier and more fun. Whether it was Lloyd Ray the inventor of the dust pan or Lonnie G. Johnson the inventor of the super soaker, blacks have contributed much to modern society. To make black history apply to your life, research the contributors that have made your life easier. You’d be surprised at what you find.
Visit historical monuments, museums and attractions.
There are many places you can visit to make black history come alive. They may even be in your backyard. The childhood home of African American author, Alex Haley is in Henning, TN. His greatest literary piece is the story of his family. “Roots” is not only the story of Haley’s family, but it’s a journey into the history of American slavery and its dark reality.
Another important location in black History is the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. This is the site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. one of the greatest martyrs of the civil rights movement. Also in Memphis is the Historic Mason Temple, headquarters of the Church of God In Christ, Inc. and is the site of Dr. King’s last sermon, the famed “Mountaintop Speech.”
If you are a music lover, the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center is the place for you. Located in Brownsville, TN the hometown of famed rock and roll legend, Tina Turner showcases the one room school of Turner and the home of blues legend “Sleepy” John Estes.
Visiting historical places is an easy way to make history come alive and establish relevance.
Attend black history programs at churches or community centers.
At the center of black history is the black church. And since the time of slavery, faith in God has fueled the resilience of the the black community. Every year black churches across the country put on programs and productions to commemorate the accomplishments of the black community and to give thanks to God for their activities and achievements. Black history programs can also be found at many of the museums and landmarks mentioned above as well. These programs are loaded with inspiring gospel music, prolific speeches and powerful dances all to celebrate black culture and heritage.
Black History Month is more than a month of celebration, and should be a month of reflection upon the ideals of freedom and togetherness for our country. It should be a time to not only reflect on those ideals, but act on those ideals. It is a time to educate our children on the history of a culture and a people that play a part in making this American Family great. Black History Month is not just black History, it’s world history.