“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”
~Dr. Mae Jemison, first African-American female astronaut
As we near the end of Black History Month, I hope everyone has been following the Brown Bookshelf, which spends every day in February posting about fabulous books by authors of color. What an awesome way to celebrate!
Another great way to celebrate the month with your children or students is to research the history of this month-long celebration. One of the first people to realize the need to honor black culture and history, Carter G. Woodson (1875–1950), along with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASALH), came up with the idea of Negro History Week in 1926. They chose the second week of February because it fell between the birthdays of Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865).Fifty years later in 1976, the first presidential proclamation declared February as Black History Month. Every year, a theme is established to focus attention on an important historical topic central to the black experience. For 2020, ASALH chose the theme “African Americans and the Vote.” Their website provides additional information about the history of the month and the themes, and includes a downloadable pdf.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870), which gave black men the right to vote. Fifty years later, women received that right, so in 2020, we’re also recognizing the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment. Because both of these landmark celebrations occur this year, the emphasis on the right to vote is important. This month’s celebration also honors “the rise of black elected and appointed officials at the local and national levels, campaigns for equal rights legislation, as well as the role of blacks in traditional and alternative political parties,” according to the ASALH.Some websites to explore with middle graders include:
“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”