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Black History Month is one of the most significant holidays in African American history. Celebrated in February, this federal holiday goes beyond the experience of slavery and highlights the vast achievements made by African American people. Carter G. Woodson, known as the “father of Black history,” created the first iteration of Black History Month in February 1926 with Negro History Week, which took place during the second week of February to coincide with the birthdates of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
President Gerald R. Ford expanded the week-long celebration into the entire month of February in 1975. “The country needed to seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of [African] Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.
The original intention of this holiday was to encourage “people of all ethnic and social backgrounds to discuss the [Negro] experience” however, much more can come from celebrating Black History.
In some schools, classrooms devote each day in the month of February to learning about a different historical Black icon. People like Madam C.J. Walker, W.E.B DuBois, Harriet Tubman, Mahalia Jackson, Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Phyllis Wheatley, and many others were discussed among teachers and students in their classes. In some cases, students were encouraged to dress up as their favorite historical icon and give an oral presentation about them in front of their peers.
School hallways were full of young people dressed up as Black eminence and celebrating the history, and in most cases, their own history. “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Black National Anthem was written by African American songwriter and composer, James Weldon Johnson was sung throughout those hallways. There was a sense of pride in oneself and hope for a promising future among African American students.
Students of different nationalities also got a chance to see Black people from an unfamiliar point-of-view; one that symbolized excellence, aptitude, and dignity. Many individuals feel as though one month is not a long enough time frame to highlight these indisputable qualities, but without it, many would be left to believe the negative stereotypes that have been circulated about Black people for centuries. This is why Black History Month is necessary—to spotlight African American merit in a world that does otherwise.
The United States is not the only country in this world that celebrates this holiday. Canada also celebrates Black History Month in February, while countries like Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom celebrate in October. “For many modern…millennials, the month-long celebration offers an opportunity to reimagine what possibilities lie ahead.” Young African American people can determine their own potential by looking at the richness from which they come. What would be a better way to prepare adolescents and children for an auspicious future? In fact, with racial uprisings happening in the last few years, 2022 is the perfect year to commemorate Black history on an even larger scale than before.
Chicago is a city that is very rich in African American history, with Chicago natives: Gwendolyn Brooks, Bessie Coleman, and Ida B. Wells being significant contributors to historical Black excellence. Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a Black man from Haiti, founded the city of Chicago, which is home to the first African American president of the United States, Barack Obama. Black history courses through the veins of Chicago on a daily basis.
A few fun activities have been inspired by the upcoming holiday. February kicks off with a family celebration full of live entertainment, food, giveaways, and learning about the numerous achievements of Black history. Saturday, February 5, Blue Door Neighborhood Center, located at 11840 South Marshfield Avenue will be hosting its 3rd annual Black History Family Celebration from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM CST. This event is open to people of all ages and it is free to those who attend.
For adults, coupled or single, there will be a Black History Month Date Night Positive Vibes event held at Bottle and Bottega, hosted by Painting With a Twist. Attendees will “paint one side of a diptych (a painting on two panels) on their own canvas. The first 30 minutes of the event is the time to settle in and grab your drink of choice. [The venue is] BYOB, so bring what you would like to drink!” The party takes place Friday, February 25, from 7 pm to 9:30 pm at 2900 N Lincoln. Admission is $39 per person.
Other Chicago events include free admission days at Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum throughout the month of February and a guided tour of the Historic Former Wabash YMCA. “Visitors will be led by TRC (The Renaissance Collaborative) staff through a guided tour of the [YMCA] building augmented with a collection of newly compiled vintage photos and archived newspaper articles so that attendees can fully see and experience the impact this building had in the lives of several thousand black Chicago residents in the 20th Century.”
Similar to Carter G. Woodson, Patricia Abrams, Founder and Executive Director of TRC believes that “learning about the achievements of prominent Black figures in our communities will not only reduce racism but more importantly for African Americans, it will strengthen our cultural identity and inspire us to set our ambitions high, even if it means restarting or a reset of our life’s goals and aspirations.” This event will take place on February 12, February 26, and on the second and fourth Saturday of every month at 10:30 am CT at 3763 S. Wabash Ave. The tours are free, but a donation of $20 to TRC is suggested.
Come out and enjoy the celebration while also gaining insight into African American culture and history!
Written by Hyleia Kidd
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
World Economic Forum: Black History Month: What is it and why do we need it?: by Alem Tedeneke
The Witness: 5 Reasons You Should Celebrate Black History Month: by Jemar Tisby
Bobby’s Bike Hike Chicago: Celebrating Black History Month: Chicago Icons You Need to Know
Chicago Choose Chicago: Guided Tour the Historic Former Wabash YMCA, the Birthplace of Black History Month
Eventbrite: 3rd Annual Black History Family Celebration: by Burst Into Books
Painting with a Twist: Black History Month Date Night Positive Vibes
Featured and Top Image by Glodi Miessi Courtesy of Unsplash – Creative Commons License
First Inset Image Courtesy of bswise’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inset Image Courtesy of Theodore Daniels’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Third Inset Image Courtesy of Warren Hill’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License