BLACK HISTORY MONTH
By: Dusty Marie Langdon
Established in 1915, Black History Month became a national month all about celebrating the achievements of black men and women throughout the nation. It began with “Negro History Week”, created by historian Carter G. Woodson and many other prominent African Americans. Because of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s and the rising identity of the black American, Negro History Week was officially turned into Black History Month in February of 1976 by President Gerald R. Ford to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Even though Black History Month has been established for over forty years, not many people know of the great accomplishments that black Americans have created in the history of our country. Not enough people know about black writers, inventors, activists, elected officials, and artists have impacted this country. Because of this, ICC Harbinger would like to introduce you to African American authors, and artists, to check out this month, and learn from for the rest of your life.
BOOKS TO READ
“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker- Written in 1982, the story takes place in rural Georgia, and focuses on the life of African American women in the South in the 1930s, and addresses the issues that those women faced from their husbands, the people around them, and their children. It has an equally amazing movie of the same name starring Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg.
“Cannibal” by Safiya Sinclair- the Jamaican-born poet wastes no time making you question the world around you in her award-winning novel.
“I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual” by Luvvie Ajayi- This is a collection of essays in which Ajayi talks about EVERYTHING, including toxic relationships, racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression.
“Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education” by Mychal Denzel Smith- This stunning memoir highlights what it is like to come of age as a black man during the administration of the first black American president. It analyzes politics, race, gender, and power in this modern era.
“Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly- As many of you may know, this story has been turned into a wonderful movie starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae. It is based off the real-life story of 3 amazing African American who were instrumental in building NASA and making America a real contender in the “Space Race” of the 1960’s. It focuses on Katherine G. Johnson (a mathematician who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury), Dorothy Vaughan (a mathematician for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and NASA, at Langley Research Center), and Mary Jackson (a mathematician and aerospace engineer at NACA and NASA at Langley). At age 98, Katherine G. Johnson is the only one still alive to see her story become internationally known. This biography depicts these women for the heroes that they are, and their struggle to be heard in a male-dominated profession and their success in launching the “Space Race” for America.
ARTISTS (Music, art, etc.)
Robert Seldon Duncanson (1821-1872) was a widely-recognized artist who during his lifetime painted landscapes of American, Canadian, and European scenery. Meticulously painted, Duncanson produced a small number of still-life paintings that are extremely rare today.
Louis Armstrong- Known as one of the founding fathers of Jazz, Armstrong is one of the more widely known black artists. Born in New Orleans in 1901, he came to prominence in the 1920’s as a trumpeter, composer, and singer shifting the focus of jazz from improvisation to solo performances. He was well known for his gravelly voice, and his ability to improvise lyrics and being skilled at scat singing.
Nat King Cole- Known for his soft baritone voice, Cole was a singer who first came to prominence as a jazz pianist. He was one of the first African Americans to host a national television variety show, The Nat King Cole Show, which created huge controversy when it came out in 1956. Being one of the first to be hosted by an African American, it did not get a lot of backing at the time. However, many of Cole’s fellow artists, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, and the backing group The Cheerleaders, worked for no pay to help the show save money.
All the people listed above helped shape the views of African Americans toward the country, and their achievements have helped the succeeding generations pave the way toward equality in America. Their accomplishments, and the accomplishments of African American youth in America today, are all worthy of being celebrated all year round. There are many more people not on this list who deserve to be recognized and celebrated this month, such as Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington Carver, Robert F. Flemming, Jr., Frederick M. Jones, Benjamin Banneker, Henrietta Lacks, Marsha P. Johnson, Storme DeLarverie, Alvin Ailey, Ruby Bridges, and Claudette Colvin, and so many, many, more people who deserve to be recognized for all they have done. Black History Month is not just about the abolition of slavery, but about the accomplishments of black men and women despite the obstacles that have been with them at the start. It is about the future accomplishments that their children will make, and the continuing fight for equality and rights that will affect generations to come. It is about encouraging all the African American children who only see white faces on television and in the media, that their voices can be heard, and that they do have the power to create positive change.
Celebrate Black History Month with the people around you this February and educate them on the struggles and amazing feats of all African American peoples of the past, and the up-and-comers of the present, the people who are creating change NOW in America and who are pushing for the revolution of equality and rights for future generations.