Celebrating Black History Month

Black and white photo of an older Carter Woodson standing in front of a bookcase holding a book.
Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Born in New Canton, Virginia, in 1875, Carter G. Woodson would never see the first Black History Month. The historian, best known for his 1933 book The Miseducation of the Negro, recognized over the course of his studies the dearth of African Americans in the nation’s curriculum.

To stem the tide and bring to the fore those lost voices, Woodson founded in 1915 the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and launched the following year The Journal of African American History.

Seeking to bring still more African Americans to light, Woodson founded in 1926 the first Negro History Week, timed to coincide with Abraham Lincoln’s and Fredrick Douglass’s birthdays. It wasn’t until 1976 that President Ford extended the observation to a full month—one honoring the contributions of black Americans to this day.

For Woodson, such associations and commemorations provide a kind of “real education”—one that “inspires people to live more abundantly, to learn to begin with life as they find it and make it better.”  

This February, the Museum is celebrating Black History Month with a slew of new initiatives:

  • February 1: Join the Museum’s social media campaign highlighting military history in honor of the 2018 theme for Black History Month. The Museum will also participate in special #BlackHistoryMonth campaigns on Snapchat, GIPHY, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 
  • February 2: In celebration of Black History Month, the Museum co-hosts the #ArchivesHashtagParty with the National Archives and Record Administration. Follow #ArchivesBlackHistory to find archival collections from libraries, archives, galleries, and museums across the country.
  • Feb 2: The Sweet Home Café will present Cook's Corner: The Women Behind the Sweet Home Café. This special presentation with the culinary team that prepares the Sweet Home Cafe's daily menu, including Chef Tala Dipasquale and Chef Dion Allen, will explore their passion for food and answer visitor questions about the Sweet Home Cafe's favorite recipes. 11:30am – 3pm
  • February 7: NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will discuss his latest book Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court in the Oprah Winfrey Theater. Written especially for young readers, Becoming Kareem explores Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s effort to establish his life’s purpose and identity. Copies of his new book will be available for sale and signing courtesy of Smithsonian Enterprises. Tickets are free but guests should register in advance through www.etix.com. 7-9pm
  • February 15: The museum will collaborate with the National Museum of the American Indian for symposium Finding Common Ground. Moderated by Michel Martin, weekend host of NPR’s All Things Considered, this program will explore the complex, sometimes fraught, history of African Americans and Native Americans and how the two communities’ intertwined stories have become an essential part of the American identity. Distinguished speakers include museum directors Lonnie G. Bunch III and Kevin Gover with Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation), Tiya Miles, and Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche). The discussion will occure in the Rasmuson Theater of the National Museum of the American Indian. Tickets are free but guests should register in advance through www.etix.com. 3-5pm.
  • February 22: The museum will commemorate the 150th birthday of Dr. William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B. Du Bois) with Cinema + Conversation: W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four, a special screening of  W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices in the Oprah Winfrey Theater and a discussion with thefilm’s director Louis Massiah following the screening. Narrated by Wesley Brown, Thulani Davis, Toni Cade Bambara and Amiri Baraka, the film offers unique insight into Du Bois, who was born three years after the end of the Civil War, witnessed the imposition of Jim Crow, and saw its defeat by the Civil Rights Movement. Tickets are free but guests should register in advance through www.etix.com. 2-4pm.
  • February 27: Historically Speaking: A Lifetime in Photographs with Adger Cowans. Curators Aaron Bryant and Tuliza Fleming will join Adger Cowans for a conversation featuring visuals from Mr. Cowans' extensive photography archives in the Oprah Winfrey Theater. A book signing of "Personal Vision: Photographs: Adger Cowans" will follow the presentation. Tickets are free but guests should register in advance through www.etix.com. 7-9pm.
  • February 27: Join the Museum for a tweetchat with Bergis Jules of Documenting the Now (Doc Now). Doc Now responds to the public's use of social media for chronicling historically significant events as well as demand from scholars, students, and archivists, among others, seeking a user-friendly means of collecting and preserving this type of digital content. Learn how they archive real-time digital content! #ArchivesBlackHistory