Celebrating Black History Month
In 1926, historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founder of the organization now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), selected the week in February that included the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass as one that would serve as an annual celebration of black history. Over time, this one week of celebration expanded into a month, and in 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month. In his “Message on the Observance of Black History Month,” Ford asked the American people to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history” (Ford, 1976).
As educators, Black History Month is a powerful opportunity to build students’ awareness and appreciation of achievements by African Americans. From Doing Social Studies in Morning Meeting by Leah Carson and Jane Cofie, we offer an activity that can be downloaded here to help build that awareness and appreciation.
This important work shouldn’t be confined to just one month, however. As Responsive Classroom consulting teacher Margie Dorshorst advises in “Valuing Cultural Norms That Differ From Your Own,” “We can use this month to help fill in the gaps in students’ knowledge and remove misunderstandings in order to strengthen their appreciation of our diverse American culture and build lasting relationships in our schools and communities” (Dorshorst, 2020).
You can download tips on how to help your students value and recognize different cultures throughout the year here:
- Carson, L., & Cofie, J. (2017). Doing social studies in Morning Meeting. Center for Responsive Schools.
- Dorshorst, M. (2020, February 3). Valuing cultural norms that differ from your own. Center for Responsive Schools. https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/valuing-cultural-norms-that-differ-from-yourown/
- Ford, G. R. (1976, February 10). Message on the observance of Black History Month, February 1976. The American Presidency Project. https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/242460