Black History Month: 11 Ways to Recognize the Contributions & Sacrifices of African Americans by Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead
Black History Month, which is observed every February in the U.S., is a time to recognize the contributions and sacrifices of Black Americans, reflect on and learn from the past and work toward a future free of oppression and systemic racism. Here are 11 things you can do to celebrate Black Americans and learn about their contributions and sacrifices:
- Learn the origins of Black History Month. Black History Month originated in the United States, where it is also known as African-American History Month. It is observed annually.
- Visit a Black history museum. There are over 100 Black or African American history museums across the U.S. You might also visit a civil rights museum. I will be visiting Memphis, Tenn., soon and while there I plan to visit the National Civil Rights Museum which preserves the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
- Support Black-owned businesses. This is something you can do in person or online. If you’re not in a position to support businesses financially at this time, you can always share their posts and recommend their products on social media.
- Donate to organizations that support racial justice, inclusion and civil rights. Some non-profit organizations that do so: American Civil Liberties Union Foundation; Black Girls Code; Black Lives Matter; The Black Youth Project; Color of Change; Equal Justice Initiative; National Civil Rights Museum; National Health Law Program; Southern Poverty Law Center; and Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
- Watch Black history documentaries and films. For example, the following are available on Netflix: 13th; Becoming; The Best of Enemies; High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America; Loving; Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Mudbound; and When They See Us.
- Attend local Black History Month events. Look to your local libraries, museums, theatres, movie theatres, colleges and universities for local events happening in February and throughout the year.
- Participate in online events. For instance: The National Museum of American History offers plenty of ways to celebrate Black history from the comfort of your home. From the National Museum of African American History and Culture: “This February, we celebrate the theme of Black health and wellness by creating a space that highlights Black pioneers' trailblazing contributions to Western medicine, addresses health disparities facing our communities, and encourages healing through education."
- Purchase, read and share books by Black authors. The No Name Book Club, dedicated to amplifying diverse voices, has compiled a list of Black-owned & POC-owned bookstores across the U.S. and throughout the world.
- Diversify your children’s bookshelves. Representation matters. It’s important that children see characters who look like them in the books they read as well as characters who don't look like them. Author Grace Lin refers to this as the “mirrors” and “windows” in books (and other texts and media). I recommend Lin’s TED Talk The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf.
- Read or listen to The 1619 Project by The New York Times Magazine. “The 1619 Project” launched in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in America. It was developed by Nikole Hannah-Jones and writers from both The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine.
- Listen. When Black Americans share their stories, when they share what it’s like to be Black in the United States, let’s listen. Let’s listen and learn, and not just in February.
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