The first Black History Month was celebrated in 1970 at Kent State University after Black educators and the Black United Students proposed the observance in 1969. Soon, it was a widespread celebration, finally becoming an official month-long effort in 1976. Today, it goes beyond the United States: Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom all observe the celebration (though October is marked as Black History Month in both Ireland and the UK).
If you’re looking to refresh the Black History Month celebrations within your school district, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s how you can observe Black History Month in your district this year.
Research the contributions the Black community, both past and present, has made to your area. Encourage the teachers within your districts to teach local history in addition to the movements of both yesterday and today. This is to contextualize these movements and remind students that Black history happens everywhere, every day, even in their hometown.
Example: Arlington Public Schools
Show your commitment to equality. It’s not uncommon for districts to put out a statement in celebration and support of the cause, and to detail some of the steps they are taking to make equality a reality in their schools. Some examples of district pages include:
Black stories go beyond biographies of notable figures in history. While they are equally important, make sure Black authors of every genre are represented in your libraries. Fiction or non-fiction, these are stories from voices that should be heard year-round. Be sure these authors are included in any Black History Month displays your school libraries create in February.
The National Education Association has a rich outline for teaching Black history broken down by grade level. It includes lesson topics, resources, and activities. Whether you forward this information along to your educators or help them create something entirely different, ensuring your teachers are empowered with your support is a vital step in giving your students the accurate information they need.
There are schools that are allowing students to opt out of Black History Month. Coupled with hate crimes rising in schools in recent years, it is crucial to come together as a community to end the hate. Celebrating Black History Month is a necessary step towards that, but it is not the only one. Schools should have an enforced zero-tolerance policy against racism and hate of any kind. Clearly define for your students and staff what it should look like if that rule is broken and map out a plan to prevent such incidents from happening at all. Safety first for all students!
For more ideas and resources, visit the Center for Racial Justice in Education.