Celebrating Black History Month with community changemakers across the US

Honoring Black History

NewsNation Now’s Ji Suk Yi interviews André Hueston Mack, founder of Maison Noir, one of the largest Black-owned wine brands in America. Mack left a successful career in finance to become a leading sommelier, working at world-renowned restaurants. A published author and creative director of a graphic design firm, Mack is a multi-talented entrepreneur changing perceptions in each industry he touches. The full interview will be livestreamed in the player above.

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — February 1 launches the federally recognized celebration of Black History Month, honoring the contributions of African Americans to the history of the U.S. and greater civilization.

While paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled through adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society and the overall Black experience, this month’s celebrations unfold against an unprecedented backdrop— occurring during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and in the wake of the 2020 protests for racial justice.

The concept was founded by historian, Carter G. Woodson, who believed in the ultimate power of truth as the foundation for reason prevailing over prejudice. Woodson founded the organization now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASLAH) in 1915.

The son of recently freed Virginia slaves, Woodson went on to study at Harvard, graduating with a doctorate. Worried that African Americans were unaware of the dearth of accomplishments of their ancestors, he established a week of celebration in 1926. The month of February was chosen because it encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

According to ASLAH’s website, the event sowed the seeds of Black history clubs, teachers incorporating Black history into curriculum, and the endorsements of progressives, not just scholars and philanthropists.

In 1976, the nation’s bicentennial, President Gerald R. Ford issued the first monthlong commemoration. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” 

Throughout the decades, U.S. presidents have issued proclamations and statements honoring the spirit of Black History Month.

The theme for 2021’s celebration is “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity,” chosen by the ASLAH.

A wealth of materials documenting the African American experience can be found at the National Archives.

The National Endowment for the Humanities offers a teacher’s guide for instructors looking for a collection of lessons and resources for K-12 grades.

The only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history and culture has had to pivot away from in-person visitors due to the pandemic. The National Museum of African American History and Culture offers virtual exhibitions, online collections and digital resources you can explore from home. The museum opened to the public on September 24, 2016, as the 19th and newest museum of the Smithsonian Institution.

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