Black History Month actually began as Black History Week in 1926. It was founded by Carter G. Woodson who is known as The Father of Black History. It has become the month when books about Black people or culture are most likely to be released, when churches hold their annual soul food dinners and teachers decorate their bulletin boards with kente cloth and images of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass.
I think the summer of 2020 is propelling us all know that this isn’t enough. It’s a can be more challenging in Times of COVID to immerse ourselves in meaningful ways, but it’s not impossible. I hope the most important takeaway from this February will be for us all to expect for just as much attention be devoted to Blackness every single month of the year. In the meantime, here are a few thoughts to get us started this month.
Follow The BrownBookshelf. Read their blog posts that introduce us to Black youth lit authors.
ACTION: Follow the BrownBookshelf and all the authors they highlight this month on the socials. Borrow books these authors (and the authors who work at the BrownBookShelf!) have written from your local library. Be sure to request that the books be purchased if they’re not available.
Attend an African American Read In. The African American Read In was established by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English to establish literacy as a part of Black History Month. I’ve planned an event for my library for next Monday. We’ll have Black women faculty members read from A Black Women’s History of the United States and we’ll be joined by one of the authors, Dr, Daina Ramey Berry. I’m excited about it! Events are held all over the country.
ACTION: Ask three of your friends to attend a Read In event with you. Plan an event for you school, church or library for next year.
Along the same lines, you’ll find events like “Hair Love: Building a Legacy through Representation with Matthew A. Cherry”, “Queer Heroes: Black History Month-Audre Lorde” and about 498 other Black History Month events on Eventbrite.
Learn More Black History. Read foundational books such as A Black Women’s History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross, From Slavery to Freedom by John Hope Franklin, The Black Book by Middleton A. Harris and Ernest Smith or Before the Mayflower by Lerone Bennett.
ACTION: As you’re reading, record significant events and then make a Black history calendar that spans the entire year. Use the information in the book to create a game such as Black History Jeopardy.
Learn More About the History of Black Children’s Literature. To understand the breadth of the Black child in literature, to realize how far we have come and how far we have to go read Black Children’s Literature Got the Blues by Nancy Tolson, Brown Gold: Milestones of African American Children’s Picture Books 1845-2002 by Michelle Martin and/or Free Within Ourselves: The Development of African American Children’s Literature by Rudine Sims Bishop. ACTION: Write a review for the journal of your state affiliate of the International Literacy Association, your state library association’s journal or your state’s chapter of the NCTE.
Does your local news outlet provide information about local Black History events? If so, find a few to attend and if not, contact them as request that they do so.
This is a short list that provides ideas of a few good things we can do but, it should also help us to think of other ways to learn and celebrate Black history and culture all year. Oh! Keep reading and sharing my blog, too! Good things are coming!