Carter G. Woodson created Black History Month to pay homage to the achievements of outstanding African Americans. Since then, remarkable black people have been rightfully honored throughout the month of February. As Black History Month comes to a close, it is a good idea to keep that momentum going, especially with our young children.
One way to implement this is to make it a fun practice. On a monthly basis, parents can introduce historical African Americans — and those creating history in real time. On the first day of each month, feature an African American to celebrate. Throughout the month, highlight the contribution and impact that person has made in American history.
All The Moms selected 11 figures to get you started on a year in continued Black History
It is only right that the “Father of Black History” be included in this list. Dr. Woodson’s passion and appreciation for African American history and culture is the catalyst for Black History Month as we have come to know it. A little known fact is Woodson chose February so Black History Month would coincide with Frederick Douglass’ birthday, which happens to fall on February 14.
Thurgood Marshall is the first African American to be appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice in 1967. However, Marshall’s achievements did not begin there.
As a civil rights attorney for the NAACP, he argued and won cases for racial justice; Marshall’s litigation set the stage for desegregation. As a lawyer, Marshall presented the most cases (32) in front of the Supreme Court and was victorious in 29.
His most notable case to date is Brown vs. The Board of Education in 1954. As a Justice of the highest court, he was in the majority that voted in favor of women’s rights in Roe vs. Wade. Little known fact is Marshall learned recited the entire U.S. Constitution — the result of a punishment assignment in High School.
Ruby Bridges made history when she walked into William Frantz Elementary School in 1960. At age five, she was the first Black student to integrate an all-white public school in the South. Six years after Thurgood Marshall won the historical case that ended segregation in the public school system, Bridges was escorted to school by U.S. marshals amid white protest against racial integration. The Disney film “Ruby Bridges” documents her journey. A little known fact is Ruby Bridges birthday falls on the same day as the Brown vs. The Board of Education decision.
Bree Newsome is history in the making. She is the young activist who broke the internet when she scaled a flagpole in front of the South Carolina Capitol building and removed a long-standing confederate flag. Newsome is dedicated to social justice and racial quality at every level. She advocates voter rights, she is a DREAM defender and speaks out against police violence.
Muhammad Ali was a world champion boxer who sacrificed his freedom and career to speak against racial and social injustice. In 1967, Ali was arrested and charged by the U.S. Department of Justice for his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War. He was later found guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison for violating Selective Service laws. The conviction was overturned in 1971. Throughout his lifetime, Ali was a philanthropist and social activist.
Serena Williams is a tennis darling. She has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles; the second-most in women’s Grand Slam tournaments of all time. Williams began playing tennis, along with her sister Venus, at the age of three.
Colin Kaepernick follows in Muhammad Ali’s footsteps. The former NFL quarterback took a knee on game days during the national anthem in protest of the rampant police violence faced by Black citizens across the country. Though he’s paid for this act with his career, Kaepernick has garnered support from colleagues, celebrities and football fans, who are rallying around him and contributing to his social-justice causes.
Alvin Ailey rose to fame dancing on Broadway alongside such greats as Lena Horne and Ricardo Montalban. His best contribution to history is the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre. The company lauded and featured African American themes in their performance. “Revelations” is the most popular dance choreographed by Ailey. The U.S. State Department was funded an international tour that made the company world renowned.
Misty Copeland is the first African-American performer to be appointed as a principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre in their 75-year history; this came after performing in the ballet company’s production of Pyotry Ilycih Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Copeland was cast in the dual role of Odette and Odile.
Oprah Winfrey has had many firsts. At the start of her broadcast career, she was the first African American to anchor a news show for WLAC in Nashville. Winfrey went on to become the host of her own long-running talk show: The Oprah Winfrey Show. She is the first African-American woman to reach billionaire status. She is also the first black woman to own her media network. Oprah is a philanthropist who funds many charities, builds schools and donated $12 million to Morehouse College to cover tuition for African -American males.
Barack Obama made history in 2008 when he was elected the 44th American president and the first African American to hold executive office; he served two consecutive terms. Obama was also the first black person to head the Harvard Law Review. The former president has roots in community service and organizing social justice campaigns. He continues his advocacy work along with his wife Michelle Obama.
Incorporating black history throughout the year can also include historical events, food and regions. Discovering the multiple aspects of blackness can make for an incredible learning experience and a lesson in inclusion. The activity shows a commitment to raising children’s social awareness and acclimating them to diversity.
A really cool product to spark discussion and add to the practice is Urban Intellectuals Black History Flashcards.