February Is Black History Month

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Origins of Black History Month

This annual observance dates back to the mid-1920s when Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an educator and historian credited as the "Father of Black History," proposed the establishment of "Negro History Week." Wanting to honor and celebrate the contributions of Black Americans in the United States, Woodson suggested Negro History Week to be celebrated during the second week of February, to coincide with Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass' birthdays. Both of these men were of great importance to black Americans in history. Negro History Week became Black History Week in the early 1970s. In honor of the nation's bicentennial in 1976, the week was then expanded to a month-long observance.

Classroom Activities

Here are some ways you can recognize this month with students and others in the community ...

1. Tune in to Bright Ideas. Many black inventors created important inventions that we still use today. George Washington Carver invented the crop rotation machine, Dr. Charles Drew is the father of the modern blood bank, Percy Julian invented fire-fighting foam and Garrett Morgan invented the traffic signal. Ask students to each research a black inventor and present their findings to the class.

2. Take "Word Breaks." Post a Langston Hughes poem on the board to show the power of his words. Encourage willing volunteers to read some Maya Angelou out loud so students can hear the melody in her words. Nikki Giovanni, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, bell hooks, Cornell West ... there are many writers who could be included in these exercises. Black southern women writers, Harlem Renaissance writers, contemporary black male authors ... these are just a few categories to choose from.

3. Map It Out. Research important cities that have historical significance in black history, like Montgomery, AL, where Rosa Parks' refusal to vacate her bus seat led to a year-long boycott. Using a large map of the United States, mark the cities and towns with text boxes that describe the events.

4. Honor Good Sports. Make a "Hall of Fame" that students can contribute to featuring athletes of color. Show how notable past athletes like Jackie Robinson and Wilma Rudolph increased the visibility and viability of black athletes, while modem stars Rebecca Lobo and Michael Jordan continue that trend. …