At The Little Market, we are committed to creating space for diverse experiences to be highlighted and celebrated. We recognize our obligation to continue learning about the experiences of marginalized communities within the United States and across the globe.
Black History Month is a celebratory recognition of the many contributions Black communities have made, and continue to make, to the United States. Racial justice is an ongoing struggle. The full inclusion of Black Americans, African Americans, Afro-Latinx Americans, and the African diaspora, remains a challenge. We are also acknowledging the rich diversity of identities, experiences, and trajectories within these communities. Change starts with understanding; it’s simply not enough to say we are allies. Allyship requires ongoing self-reflection, intentional engagement in education, and accountability. We are all accountable for ensuring that our actions align with our words. We are each responsible for making space for every individual and community to tell their own stories from their perspectives.
The framework for Black History Month dates to the early 20th Century. Dr. Carter G. Woodson embarked on the journey to harness a movement to properly recognize and celebrate Black excellence. As a historian, Dr. Woodson “witnessed how black people were underrepresented in the books and conversations that shaped the study of American history.”1 The dominant American historical narrative positioned African Americans as peripheral figures in the formation of the nation. Dr. Woodson recognized the inadequacy of this approach and was committed to ensuring that the histories, narratives, and contributions of African Americans became integrated into the collective awareness.
In 1915, Dr. Woods partnered with Jesse E. Moorland, a minister and civic leader.2 The two co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). The focus of the organization is to promote the study of Black history and establish it as a discipline.3
The first awareness campaign was launched in 1926. Dr. Woodson and the ASALH launched a “Negro History Week” to raise awareness of the organization’s mission and to collaborate with school systems to integrate the subject into curricula. Dr. Woodson’s campaign was launched during the second week in February in honor of both Frederick Douglass’ birthday (February 14) and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12).4
Dr. Woodson’s curriculum was very well received within the African American community as it facilitated a newfound understanding of Black culture and intellectual identity. During the Civil Rights Movement, the curriculum became a tool for intellectual liberation. Freedom Schools in the South adopted the observance and used the teaching materials to organize.
In the mid-1960s, a number of universities began expanding Black History Week into Black History Month.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford decreed Black History Month a national observance.
Dr. Woodson set out the framework of justice and inclusion through education. Black History Month is an invitation to engage in ongoing learning about the challenges, victories, and contributions of Black communities. This intentional engagement should extend far beyond the month of February. The list of intellectuals, thought leaders, and accomplishments is endless. We are highlighting a few pieces and publications to support further exploration.
“The Hill We Climb And Other Poems” by Amanda Gorman, an American poet and activist. Her work is situated at the intersection of feminism, race, and marginalization, and it focuses on the African diaspora. At only 22, Gorman made history by becoming the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate and delivering a powerful message of healing and resilience during the 2021 Presidential Inauguration.
“Clotel: or, The President’s Daughter” by William Wells Brown. Published in 1853, this is the first novel published by an African American. William Wells Brown was an abolitionist and lecturer.
“Notes of a Native Son” by James Baldwin. This is a collection of essays addressing the complexities of the Black identity in the United States within the context of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s. Literary critics, historians, and activists suggest that this body of work situated Baldwin as a key voice for the movement.
This book chronicles Bryan Stevenson’s journey to create the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit law office in Montgomery, Alabama dedicated to the defense of the poor, the incarcerated, and the wrongly condemned. As a leader in the field, Stevenson’s work stands at the intersection of racial justice and prison reform.
Co-hosted by Leila Day and Hana Baba, this podcast explores the critical questions such as “what it means to be black and how we talk about blackness.” The podcast centers stories that are not typically told while celebrating black joy.
Hosted by Keegan-Michael Key, Roxane Gay and Issa Rae and Another Round hosts Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton, this podcast is a part of The Washington Post’s coverage of the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture. The project captures the “people’s museum” through stories and objects. Each narrative and item is situated within a historical context.
“Olympic Pride, American Prejudice” – This documentary explores the 1936 Olympic Games when 18 African-American Olympians, two of whom were women, defied Jim Crow segregation and Nazi racism by participating in the Berlin Olympic Games.
“Slavery By Another Name” – This PBS documentary “challenges one of Americans’ most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery in this country ended with the Emancipation Proclamation.”5 This documentary explores the way in which oppressive systems of labor were imposed on African Americans in the post-Emancipation era.
1 Zorthian, Julia. “This Is How February Became Black History Month.” TIME. January 29, 2016. Accessed January 26, 2021. Web.
2 African American Registry. Accessed January 26, 2021. Web.
3 “Our History.” Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). Accessed January 26, 2021.
4 Zorthian, Julia. “This Is How February Became Black History Month.” TIME. January 29, 2016. Accessed January 26, 2021.
5 “About Slavery by Another Name.” Official Selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Accessed January 26, 2021.