Friday 18 Feb, 2011

Black History Month—A brief history and resources

All around the country in schools, museums, libraries, homes and numerous other places, Americans have been celebrating the rich heritage and contributions of African Americans.

Heroes of the Colored Race by J. Hoover, 1881, Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division

Black History Month had its origins more than 80 years ago. In 1926 Negro History Week celebrated black history with official events during the first week of February. The week was the brainchild of historian Carter G. Woodson. And the first week of February was chosen to encompass the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Negro History Week was a mainstay for bringing awareness to black history and heritage across the nation. Fifty years after its founding (and the same year America celebrated its bicentennial), the week was expanded to dedicate the entire month of February to black history and the important contributions of African Americans

While there’s plenty to celebrate and learn for this special month, here are a few favorite links to keep the spirit of Black History month vibrant!

Read President Obama’s 2011 Proclamation for National African American History Month. Since Gerald Ford’s 1976 black history month proclamation, each U.S. president delivers one each year.

The special focus for 2011 Black History Month is African Americans in the Civil War:

Listen to stories told by African Americans from around the country in their own words, in their own voices. They were collected as part of the StoryCorps Griot Project.

Watch National Archives senior archivist Reginald Washington trace the history of a claim submitted by an African-American congregation. Union troops burned their church building to the ground. The seven-page petition, part of the National Archives holdings, tells of the rich history of the church and its congregants.

Black History Month is a special time to bring focus to the history, influence and contributions of black Americans. EF Explore America offers several tours that help to bring new depth and understanding to black American history and culture:

Atlanta and Beyond: The Civil Rights Movement: Capture the spirit of America’s most prominent Civil Rights leaders as you visit historically rich sites throughout Atlanta and Birmingham.

D.C. & Williamsburg: A Walk Through African-American History: From the Frederick Douglas National Historic Site to the Anacostia Community Museum, this tour teaches your students the important role African Americans played in our nation’s history.

New York City and the Harlem Renaissance: Explore African American history and experience Harlem’s Apollo Theater, the African American Wax Museum, and Sugar Hill – home of Count Basie, Malcolm X, and Ralph Ellison.