History gives context to the present, so acknowledging or commemorating past events is essential. Through remembrance, culture's preserved, and in most instances, provides a community with an identity, something they can cling on for generations. Black History month is one such commemorative period whereby people can comprehend Black histories, beyond the norm and mainstream background stories.
The Black History period is a moment of reflection, going beyond racism and slavery, giving great acknowledgement to Black achievement and the context under which such was and is still being achieved.
Considering the recent racial justice calls that reached a fever pitch, the 2021 commemoration holds great significance. What is the theme, and what is the primary intent of recognising this exceptional month?
Black History Month origin
What is Black History Month and why is it celebrated? Every year, in February, people celebrate Black History Month. During the annual celebration, the United States of America and Canada recognise the pivotal role African Americans played in U.S. history. How did the commemoration start?
Interestingly, it all began a century ago, in 1915, a half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery in the United States of America. Carter G. Woodson (referred to as the father of Black history) and Jesse E. Moorland created the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH).
The organisation was dedicated to researching and supporting achievements by Black Americans and other individuals of African origin. The group sponsored the Negro History Week that was created in February 1926. It happened during the second week of February to coincide with Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass's birthdays.
The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History was later named the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH). It is one of the oldest historical societies in the U.S. that promotes African American history.
How did it gain national recognition?
After the ASNLH created the Negro History Week, communities and schools all over the United States of America started to organise local celebrations. It even promoted the formation of history clubs and host performance and lectures.
A few years later, with the ideology going mainstream, mayors in different states started issuing proclamations acknowledging the week. By 1960, Negro History Week had transformed into the Black History Month thanks to the civil rights movement.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford approved the commemorative period in February. He asked Americans to celebrate the month in support of the neglected accomplishments of Black Americans.
After President Gerald recognised the month, every other president followed suit. Congress passed the National Black History Month into law in 1986, putting it officially in the calendar. The law intended to make all American citizens "aware of the struggle for freedom and equal opportunity.
Why is it celebrated?
The primary purpose of celebrating Black History Month is to teach students and the young about Black Americans about Black History and its contribution to society. Before, African American history was losing significance and wasn't an essential national narrative.
Today, people commemorate the month to celebrate African Americans' impact in the United States of America and other parts of the world. During the month, people learn more about Black histories considering the decade's technological achievement and social media popularity.
Why is Black History Month in February?
What is unique with February that Woodson selected it as the preferred period for celebrating Black History Month? The month holds the birthdays of two of the most critical and significant leaders that helped abolish slavery in the United States of America. These are Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
What is the Black History Theme?
During the commemoration of the Black History Month every year, a theme is chosen by ASAALAH. What is 2021’s theme?
This year's theme is Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity. It explores the African diaspora and the dispersion of Black families all over the United States of America. Other organisations like "Black Lives Matter are utilising the month to celebrate Black Future Month as well.
What are the colors of Black History Month?
The Pan-African flag (also called the Marcus Garvey, UNIA, Afro-American or Black Liberation flag), created in 1920 with red, green, and black, is the Black History month colors.
The red shade symbolises the blood that unites all individuals of Black African ancestry, and the bloodshed after liberation. Black signifies the African people and green is a symbol of the abundant natural wealth of Africa.
Do people celebrate Black History Month anywhere else?
Although Black History Month originated in the United States of America, it is celebrated in other countries. It has received official recognition from the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland and even the Netherlands government. The U.K. (started celebrating in 1987), Ireland, and the Netherlands celebrate it in October.
Who is famous in Black History Month?
America has numerous pioneers of African American history. However, individual personalities like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin and Muhammad Ali are the most popular. They have earned the right for their reputation because of their activism.
Other nearly forgotten heroes and heroines are Claudette Colvin, Alice Coachman, or Shirley Chisholm that Black historians have been attempting to shed light and pinpoint. These famous Black Americans in history are also the holders of popular Black History Month quotes.
How many Black History Month facts have you familiarised yourself with? Every year in February during the Black History Month, the ASAALAH comes out with unique and exciting themes to remind people of Black History. This sensitisation exercise informs people of specific facts that were long-forgotten and is a chance to reimagine what possibilities lie ahead.
Tuko.co.ke featured an exciting piece highlighting the most monumental African warriors that altered the continent's history. These are individuals whose heroism changed the continent's trajectory as they fought colonisation and western culture.
For instance, Ahmed Aba, the leader of the Songhai Empire, was a great political provocateur. Shaka kaSenzangakhona that ruled the Zulu Kingdom from 1816 to 1828 united the Nguni people into his Kingdom, making him reign over a significant part of Southern Africa.