Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Washington State Employee Assistance Program’s February 2020 newsletter:
In February, we celebrate National Black History Month, to recognize and honor the experience and achievements of Black Americans. Each year the Association for the Study of African American Life and Heritage designates a theme for Black History Month. This year’s theme is “African Americans and the Vote” to mark the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment which established the right of women to vote, as well as the 150th anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870 which technically gave Black men the right to vote. In actuality, African Americans living in the South were almost entirely disenfranchised due to the passage of laws that erected barriers to voting, from poll taxes to literacy tests. You can read more about the prolonged struggle for African American voting rights that continued through the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and beyond.
Here are some additional ways to commemorate Black History Month:
- Explore the countless stories and accomplishments of Black Americans, including the famous (such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson) and the remarkable but less-well-known, such as William Powell (aviation pioneer), Mary Church Terrell (champion of racial equality and women’s suffrage), Bill Traylor (important 20th century visual artist, born into slavery) and Audre Lorde (poet, writer and civil/women’s/LGBTQ rights activist).
- View one of the Smithsonian Institution’s Learning Lab Collections about Black History.
- Check out the NAACP’s list of “28 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month.”
- Bookmark and visit the Equal Justice Initiative’s online “A History of Racial Injustice” calendar, which spotlights significant (yet some lesser known) events and incidents in our nation’s history.
- Try out a new podcast, such as Uncivil (regarding the Civil War and the many important stories that were left out of our history books) or 1619 (observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in the U.S.).
- Read a book with your children, such as Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, or one of the Coretta Scott King Book Award recipients.
With so much to learn, honor, and remember, we invite you to celebrate black history and culture all year-round.