February is National Black History Month!

It’s time to celebrate the important milestones, cultural achievements, influence and history of the African American community. It's also time to draw awareness, and strengthen efforts to correct the ongoing prejudices, violence and social inequities that the African American community still endures.

 

Be proactive! Keep scrolling to learn about the history of Black History Month, read about historical and current injustices, find new ways to pay tribute to the African American community, and explore other activities to expand your understanding toward equality, equity and social inclusion.

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A brief history of the Origin of Black History Month

Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, celebrates the achievements of African Americans and their central role in shaping U.S. history.

 

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH®) tells us that the seeds of Black History Month were sown in 1915. That summer, from August 22 to September 16, a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the emancipation of African American slaves took place in Chicago, Illinois. ASALH says "Thousands of African Americans travelled from across the country to see exhibits highlighting the progress their people had made since the destruction of slavery." Among the exhibitioners was an extraordinary African American Historian named Carter Godwin Woodson, Ph.D. (Harvard University, 1912), with his display on black history. Woodson, who was inspired by the event, in collaboration with the Wabash YMCA, A. L. Jackson and three others formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) on September 9th of that year. 

Later in 1916 Woodson established The Journal of Negro History aspiring to popularize the true history of African American people that he and other black intellectuals had uncovered. In 1920, black civic organizations began to promote the work. In 1924, his Omega Psi Phi fraternity brothers continued to promote the work with the creation of Negro History and Literature Week, later renamed Negro Achievement Week. Although the outreach was significant, Woodson wanted an even greater momentum. As he addressed an audience of Hampton Institute students he proclaimed, “We are going back to that beautiful history and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements.” So in 1925, with the goal of uplifting and inspiring the African American community by popuralizing their history, he decided that (ASNLH) would shoulder the responsibility of both creating, promoting and popularizing the knowledge of the past. He sent out a press release announcing an annual event called Negro History Week in February, 1926, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (the Emancipation Proclamation) and Frederick Douglass (an escaped enslaved African American who later became a prominent abolitionist, writer, and statesman during the antebellum period), which by the 1960's continued to grow in popularity. In 1976, during the height of the civil rights movement, President Gerald  Ford expanded that week into Black History Month.

 

It wasn't until 1986, the first year Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday became a national holiday, that the U.S. Congress, in a joint resolution of the House and Senate, officially designated the month of February as “National Black History Month.” President Ronald Reagan created public law 22-244 (govinfo.gov), and issued the Presidential Proclamation 5443 that stated “the foremost purpose of Black History Month is to make all Americans aware of this struggle for freedom and equal opportunity.”

We encourage you to visit ASALH.org for more more detailed articles of the like the "Origins of Black History Month" and "Why Black History Month!".

Black History Month is celebrated with events including, parades, art exhibits, workshops, symposiums and concerts, and by honoring important figures. The purpose of Black History Month is to affirm and celebrate the contributions that African Americans have made in history with their struggle for freedom and equality, and to gain a deeper understanding of our true nation's history. It is also to further pressurize and raise awareness of the ongoing battle against systemic discrimination and inequity.

Learn More About Carter Goodwin Woodson, Ph.D

Woodson, born in 1875, was the son of former slaves. As a teen, he helped on his father’s farm and worked in the coal mines of West Virginia to help support his family while simultaneously teaching himself to master common school subjects. Aspiring to have a formal education, Woodson entered high school at the age of 20, graduating in only 2 years. His goal of a having formal education was fulfilled as he went on to earn a master's degree from the University of Chicago, and he became the second African American after W.E.B. Du Bois to graduate from Harvard University. From there the occupations, achievements and persistent passions of this man were abundant, but his arguably most important profession was that of an Historian. 

  

Woodson felt that African-American contributions to history were ignored, overlooked and suppressed by the white dominated historians of the time. He recognized the need for Black scholars to study and preserve Black history as a separate branch of study. So as a prominent African American historian, he worked passionately to provide an education on the origins, struggles, and achievements of African Americans in United States history. 

Part of Woodson’s legacy includes establishing The Journal of Negro History, penning more than a dozen books, including 1933’s  Mis-Education of the Negro, and the establishment the event that what we presently known as Black History Month. 

Want more information? Click the buttons for the source articles about this extraordinary man.

Select Important African American Figures in  U.S. History

There are far too many notable African American historical figures to list all of them here but we've compiled the slideshow below to honor the some prominent, known African American figures in American history and putting a spotlight on a selection of many others who do not get much recognition.

 

Feel free to drop Dr. J a note to tell her what you have learned. 

Scroll through our slideshow to learn more about select key historical African American men in the United States.

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JAMES FORTEN

Abolitionist | 1766-1842

Forten was an African-American abolitionist and wealthy businessman in Philadelphia. Born free in the city, he became a sailmaker after the American Revolutionary War. Following an apprenticeship, he became the foreman and bought the sail loft when his boss retired. Based on equipment he developed, he established a highly profitable business on the busy waterfront of the Delaware River, in what's now Penn's Landing. Having become well established, in his 40s Forten devoted both time and money to working for the national abolition of slavery and gaining civil rights for blacks. By the 1830s, his was one of the most powerful African-American voices in the city.

Scroll through our slideshow to learn more about select key historical African American women in the United States.

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Sojourner Truth

Former Slave, Advocate for Abolition, Civil and Women’s Rights | 1797-1883

A former slave, Sojourner Truth became an outspoken advocate for abolition, temperance, and civil and women’s rights in the nineteenth century. Her Civil War work earned her an invitation to meet President Abraham Lincoln in 1864.

Heritage and culture
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Music

American Pop Music Has its Origins Among African Americans

Their origins are in musical forms that arose out of the historical condition of slavery that characterized the lives of African Americans prior to the American Civil War. Some of the most popular music types today, such as rock and roll, rock, funk, jazz, blues, rhythm, and rhythm and blues are African-American music.

Fun Facts
Image by Clark Tibbs
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)  

The date of February 12, 1909, was chosen for the NAACP’s inception because it also marked the 100th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln. On February 12, 2021, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) will celebrate its 112th birthday and coincided with abolitionist Frederick Douglass’s birthday (February 14). It’s America’s oldest civil rights organization, as well as its largest. 

Logo By http://www.naacp.org/pages/press-resources, Fair use

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The Earliest Recorded Protest Against Slavery Was By The Quakers In 1688

Quakers, also known as “The Society of Friends,” have a long history of abolition. But it was four Pennsylvania Friends from Germantown who wrote the initial protest in the 17th century. They saw the slave trade as a grave injustice against their fellow man and used the Golden Rule to argue against such inhumane treatment; regardless of skin color, “we should do unto others as we would have done onto ourselves.” In their protest they stated, “Pray, what thing in the world can be done worse towards us, then if men should robb or steal us away, & sell us for slaves to strange Countries, separating husband from their wife and children….” 

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The practice of vaccination in America was introduced to America an enslaved man named Onesimus. 

An enslaved person by the name of Onesimus, African descent living in the Massachusetts colony was a gift to the Puritan church minister Cotton Mather from his congregation in 1706. He told the church minister about the way inoculations were practiced in Africa for centuries to prevent people from getting sick. By extracting the material from an infected person and scratching it into the skin of an uninfected person, you could deliberately introduce smallpox to the healthy individual making them immune.  Mather took this information to Dr. Zabdiel Boylston when smallpox became a severe issue in Boston in 1721. Boylston inoculated 240 people, despite a large opposition to the practice. 

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One In Four Cowboys Was Black, Despite The Stories Told In Popular Books And Movies

In fact, it’s believed that the real “Lone Ranger” was inspired by an African American man named Bass Reeves. Reeves had been born a slave but escaped West during the Civil War where he lived in what was then known as Indian Territory. He eventually became a Deputy U.S. Marshal, was a master of disguise, an expert marksman, had a Native American companion, and rode a silver horse.  

Black cowboys were often expected to do more of the work and the roughest jobs compared to their white counterparts. Loyalty did develop between the cowboys on a drive, but the Black cowboys were typically responsible for breaking the horses and being the first ones to cross flooded streams during cattle drives.  

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The Chitlin’ Circuits 

During the era of US racial segregation, under Jim Crow law, a network of clubs, theaters, and other venues throughout the eastern, southern, and upper Midwest areas of the United States where black entertainers were allowed to perform, culturally accepted, and found a safe place to showcase their talent. Blues musician W.C. Handy wrote of chitlin' cafes in his 1917 song " Beale Street Blues ". In the 21st century, the term is applied to the venues, especially in the South, where contemporary African-American blues singers such as Bobby Rush, Denise LaSalle, and O.B. Buchana continue to appear regularly. 

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Promoting Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 
Image by Christina @ wocintechchat.com

Here are some curated articles on this topic to guide you through envisioning a workplace that thrives on its diversity and social responsibility practices.  

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The article provides insights into what it takes to combat racism in the workplace.  The article summarizes highlights from other Think Big sessions with leaders who have unique perspectives into the impact of racism in the workplace and beyond.  

Some ideas discussed include: 

  • Creating antiracist organizations 

  • Venture funding favors White men 95% of the time 

  • Opening doors for tech careers 

Read the full article ⤴

A brief history of the Observance of AAPIHM

According to the United States Census Bureau, a joint congressional resolution was established in In 1978 that declared first 10 days of May as Asian American & Pacific Islander American Heritage Week. These dates coincide with two important events in AAPI history: the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants (May 7, 1843)  and contributions and sacrifices of Chinese workers who built the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869. In 1992, Congress permanently expanded the observance from one week to an entire month long celebration that is now known as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Be Proactive! 

6 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month

According to the ASALH's website, the Black History Month theme for 2022 is:

Black Health and Wellness. 

1) Explore and reflect on over 400 years of history, learn about the historical events of African American people in the U.S.

We suggest starting with the short film , "Twenty & Odd" by The National Parks Service.

Synopsis from NPS.gov:

"The film’s title, 'Twenty & Odd,' is taken from a quote from English colonist John Rolfe describing the number of the first enslaved Africans brought to Virginia in 1619. The creative team chose this title to reclaim power of Rolfe’s phrasing that suggested that these enslaved Africans were so insignificant that they could not even bother to be properly counted.

The narrative for “Twenty & Odd” is Maya Angelou’s remarkable piece, “Still I Rise.” Through its voice and imagery, the film advances messages of African American empowerment, remembrance, education, inspiration, and engagement in iconic places stewarded by the National Park Service."

2) Attend an Event

CHECK NOT YET LISTED - 2022 Syracuse University Calendar.

3) 7 Ways to Patronize African American Owned Businesses

Visit Support Black Owned. com. Discover and support black-owned businesses nationwide.
Find awesome places, bars, restaurants and activities at this convenient site. Add your own listing for free if you are a business owner.

Into online shopping? We've compiled a list of sites that make it easy to find exactly what you need:

We Buy Black.com

Official Black Wall Street 

EatOkra 

WhereU Came From 

I Am Black Business 

Black Nation 

4) Support or learn about an African American artist.

We suggest checking out the article "Jean-Michel Basquiat and 10 Black Visual Artists Who Broke Barriers", on biography.com. 

5) Participate in a Equity Challenge

Take the Central New York Business Equity Pledge right now!

6) Spread Awareness

 

Use social media to call attention to the achievements, influence and history of the African American community. Encourage people to stand together against racial inequities. Use the suggestions below for ways to make a bigger impact with your posts.

#HASHTAGS

Spread awareness to the masses with hashtags. Don't limit the reach of your social media posts to just your followers, add a hashtag to your content so your message is accessible to all. Here are a few we suggest for Black History Month:

#blackhistorymonth #africanamericanhistorymonth #blackhistory #supportblackbusiness #blackowned #blacklivesmatter #blackexcellence #blackpower #blackculture #blackpride #blm #bhm #blackhistoryfacts #blackandproud #blackunity 

BLACK HISTORY MONTH GRAPHICS

Please feel free to download and share the following graphics. Don't forget your hashtags!

Click on an image for a full-size view. Hover on or click on image to display share and download options.