What if I told you that you can celebrate Black History Month even if you study Black history year-round?
Well… you CAN and you SHOULD!
What we now observe nationally as Black History Month, an annual month-long celebration of the contributions and achievements of Black people first began when historian Carter G. Woodson and his organization the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) launched Negro History Week in February 1926.
Woodson, now regarded as “The Father of Black History” had hoped that Negro History Week would inspire educators to create curricula and provide lessons that included the economic, social, and political contributions of Black people year-round.
In 1927 in the Journal of Negro History he wrote, “This is the meaning of Negro History Week. It is not so much a Negro History Week as it is a History week. We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice. There should be no indulgence in undue eulogy of the Negro. The case of the Negro is well taken care of when it is shown how he has influenced the development of civilization.”
It’s been 95 years since the first Negro History Week and we’re still not where Woodson had hoped we’d be.
While most Black homeschooling families study Black history year-round within the context of their daily lessons, students in the broader homeschool community, public schools, and private schools are still learning Black history as a wholly separate and supplemental subject offered as an elective or introduced only during the month of February.
As you can see, there is still much work to be done in achieving Woodson’s goal of Black history’s inclusion in the year-round study of history.
Therefore, those of us that have the privilege of educating our children at home should not become apathetic about the celebration of Black History Month.
I recently read responses to a post in a Facebook group for Black homeschoolers asking members of the group what they were doing for Black History Month.
Though most replies to these posts were positive and thoughtful, there were several replies of “Nothing.”, followed by “I teach Black history every week” or “We learn our history every day”, etc.
It seems that many people believe that if you study Black history year-round then you have no reason to celebrate Black History Month.
Many of the commenters that shared how they planned to celebrate Black History Month also felt the need to first preface their plans with the statement “We teach Black history daily but…”
The implication is that if you do celebrate Black History Month then you must not be teaching it year-round.
Just because we teach our children Black history all year doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t celebrate Black History Month.
Teaching Black history and celebrating Black history are not the same thing.
There’s a difference between what we do on regular days and what we do on special occasions and holidays.
This is why we don’t say things like, “I show my children love every day so we don’t celebrate birthdays.”
Or as Christians say, “I read the Bible every day so I don’t celebrate Easter or Christmas.”
For me, Black History Month is like a month-long national holiday where our ancestors are honored, acknowledged, and celebrated like no other time of the year.
Therefore, I believe that in keeping with Carter G. Woodson’s vision, we should use Black History Month as an opportunity to inspire others to extend the teaching of Black history beyond the month of February.
It’s not enough to just state the fact that WE (Black homeschoolers) teach Black history year-round.
We have to ask ourselves, how can we empower and equip other families to study Black history beyond February 28?
I believe we empower them by first sharing the importance of studying Black history year-round.
We then help equip them by sharing the resources we are using to teach Black history year-round.
Lastly, we can be intentional about creating programs, events, and other opportunities to celebrate Black history year-round.
Until historical narratives about Black life, Black achievements, and the significant contributions of Black people are included in the everyday study of American and World History, we must BOTH celebrate Black History Month and promote the teaching of Black history year-round.
What say you? Do you celebrate Black History Month? How do you teach Black history year-round?
Let us know in the comments.
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