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The History of Black History Month

The start of February means teachers and classrooms across the US will start celebrating Black History Month.  There are many misconceptions about the purpose and history of this month-long celebration and even if we should still celebrate it.  Michael Hines from the Stanford Graduate School of Education outlines the history of Black History Month in this short video.  

This video is appropriate for older kids due to its discussion of historical events younger students may not have learned about yet.  Hines does an excellent job of breaking down these complex topics so the audience can understand why Black History Month was started, what impact this celebration has had since its implementation, and what the future may bring for this month.  

The Begining

Teacher, historian, and activist, Carter G. Woodson, in 1926 started a week of teaching that challenged the dehumanization and degradation of Black people that was the curriculum of the time.  He called this week, Negro History Week. This week was part of a larger movement aiming for social and political equality. With the support of thousands of black teachers and entire communities, Black History Month began to take shape.

The 1960’s through Today

During the civil rights movement, the week grew to a month, and the outdated term Negro was replaced.  Black History Month was more important than ever. The celebration looks much like it does today; education and honor for black leaders that came before us.

The Future

Many question if Black History Month should still be celebrated.  Some argue the month-long celebration is unneeded due to the progress of the past 100 years.  Others suggest that singling out black history may have the unintended consequence of exclusion rather than inclusion.  A large majority believe and research shows that Black History Month is still needed.  Schools are still lacking in discussing the historical context for many races.  Yet, Woodson, the inventor of Black History Month, hoped it would one day no longer be needed.  Until then, we will do our best to support teachers in sharing the stories of black leaders and heroes.

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