What is Black History Month?
Black History Month is America’s annual nationwide celebration in February. This month recognises and honours the contribution, achievement and impact African Americans have made to American history. It is also observed in Canada and more recently has been observed in countries such as Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Black History Month is important to us at Booksie because all black people have their roots on the African continent and our work centres around celebrating Africans. Booksie is a love letter to African children on the continent and in the diaspora. We want all children with black and brown skin to know that their stories and experiences are valid. The books that we excitedly and sometimes painstakingly curate give them mirrors to see characters who look and sound like them.
For non-Africans, the books that Booksie delivers, become a window through which the adventures of children with black and brown skin become ‘normalized’. It helps them see that people who may not look like them are just as human as they are.
How was Black History Month started?
In 1915, Black American historian and author Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of African American Life and history dedicated the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” That week in February was chosen because it coincides with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglas. This was to honour them because of the role they played in ending slavery.
Black History Month was officially recognized by the US government in 1976. Thus every year the President issues a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to celebrate the achievements of African Americans in every field from science and the arts to politics and religion.
Why Black History Month is important
- Black History Month reminds us of how far black people have come since slavery, segregation and continued racial injustice
- This month enables us to celebrate the achievements of Black people who have often been overlooked
- Black History Month creates opportunities to have open and honest conversations about remnants of slavery, segregation and racial legacy
- It helps remember the struggles and honour the heroes who in various ways helped to end slavery and aided African Americans to achieve equal rights
- Black History Month educates all Americans on the heritage, history and culture of African Americans
- In recent times, it has become a period to amplify businesses owned and operated by Black people
Some significant events remembered during Black History Month
- The Emancipation Proclamation - Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that as of January 1, 1863, all enslaved people in the states currently engaged in rebellion against the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.
- The Montgomery Bus Boycott- This was a civil rights protest during which Black Americans refused to ride city buses in Montgomery, Alabama, to protest segregated seating. It is regarded as the first large-scale US demonstration against segregation.
- The March to Washington D.C- This was a political demonstration in 1963 by civil rights leaders to protest discrimination and to show support for major civil rights legislation that was pending in congress. This protest brought together an interracial crowd of more than 200,000 people with the common goal to protest for equal rights among all citizens.
- Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and Voting Rights of 1965 - The Civil Rights Acts in 1964 put an end to segregation in public accommodation. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of race , colour, religion, sex or national origin. The Voting Rights Act removed legal barriers that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote.
Election of Barack Obama- Barack Obama was the first African American to be elected as the President of the United States.
Black History Month is a great way to honour the legacy of outstanding African Americans and Africans around the world. Most importantly, I believe Black History month is a way to impact the Black youth because activities organised throughout the month educates them about their heritage, inspires them to be agents of change in their communities and makes them strive for excellence.
Booksie will host a Black History Month themed Virtual Storytime on Saturday, February 13. We will read Lupita Nyong’o’s Sulwe, a book about identity and loving yourself. The book also reminds children to love the skin they are in.
Click here to buy a copy of Sulwe