Celebrating Black History Month

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 throughout 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 even more stories of African Americans to light, in 1926 Woodson founded the first Negro History Week. This was timed in February 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 provided 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 week and throughout February, the Museum is celebrating Black History Month with a host of new programs, initiatives and experiences:

  • Uplifting the Black Family: NMAAHC Black History Month Social Media Campaign
    NMAAHC’s social media platforms will explore The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity, the theme for 2021 selected by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, an organization created in 1915 by Carter G. Woodson—known as the Father of Black History Month. The daily, digital conversation will amplify the museum’s Black History Month programming and will share century-old stories, dynamic photographs and items in its collection and family history resources. The public can view this year’s Black History Month social media campaign by following @NMAAHC ​​​​​​on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 
  • NMAAHC’s Newest Online Exhibition: “Pauli Murray’s Proud Shoes: A Classic in African American Genealogy”
    This inspirational exhibition, formerly only available to the public through a visit to the museum, has now gone digital. Pioneering lawyer, Episcopal priest and activist, Pauli Murray (1910–1985), is the author of a major African American genealogy work, Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family. Released 20 years before Alex Haley’s Roots, her book is regarded as an early but often overlooked exploration into ancestral connection. In the book, Murray dissects the racial and social dynamics between the union of a free black family from the North and a mixed-race family in the South. The online exhibition features an interactive story map with detailed documents, photos and video of Murray’s life and her role as a member of the Fitzgerald family, fighting for freedom and justice in the South and beyond. This exhibition is available for viewing at https://nmaahc.si.edu/proud-shoes.
  • Feb. 21–Feb. 27; kickoff Feb. 21 from 12 p.m.–3 p.m. ET
    African Americans In STEM Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon

    In collaboration with blackcomputeHER, the museum celebrates National Engineering Week with the African Americans in STEM Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon. Participants will create and edit Wikipedia pages for African American STEM professionals highlighting the impacts on their communities, nation and the world. The creation and editing of Wikipedia pages will benefit K–12 students and teachers by sharing the narratives of African American STEM professionals, past and present. Participants should create a Wikipedia account before the start of the Edit-a-Thon. Training will be provided for new editors during the kickoff event. Q&A sessions will be available each day for those participants looking to make edits during the week. Admission is free; however, registration is required at https://nmaahc.si.edu/events/upcoming.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 23 (program occurs biweekly on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday)
    Artists at Home: School Outreach 

    Adapted from the museum’s summer program, “Artists at Home” is a digital interactive program designed to engage students with hands-on artmaking and conversations about African American artists and different visual art genres. Each hour-long session, led by an NMAAHC educator, encourages participants to make art using household materials and discuss the featured artist work. February’s sessions will focus on the works of Wadsworth Jarrell and word portraits. Educators and academic institutions are encouraged to register for this creative program designed for the at-home classroom. This program is for students from grades six–12. Admission is free; however, registration is required at https://nmaahc.si.edu/events/upcoming.

  • Tuesday, Feb. 23; 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET
    Historically Speaking: COVID-19 and the Economy 

    In this program moderated by Michael Fletcher, senior writer at ESPN’s Undefeated, panelists will focus on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the economy and the African American community. Panelists Michelle Singletary, personal finance columnist at the Washington Post, and Algernon Austin, senior researcher at the Thurgood Marshall Institute, will discuss this economic issue and how the community can prevail with critical interventions. Admission is free; however, registration is required at https://nmaahc.si.edu/events/upcoming.

  • Friday, Feb. 26; 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. ET (program occurs every Friday)
    NMAAHC Kids: Joyful Fridays
    Joyful Fridays welcomes children every Friday in February to create art that celebrates Black joy, history and culture. This special program is inspired by the museum’s Joyful ABC’s activity book series, which features activities, museum objects and new words based on characteristics featured in the book, A is for All the Things You Are: A Joyful ABC Book. In its first installment, February’s Joyful Fridays will focus on activities inspired by the themes of letters C–F: Creative, Daring, Emotional and Fair. To prepare for the activity, registered participants will receive a list of accessible supplies needed, recommended books and links to online resources in the museum’s early childhood Learning Lab collections the Monday before each program. Participants can prepare for this program series by building an at-home creativity kit. This program is for children ages 4 through 8. Admission is free; however, registration is required at https://nmaahc.si.edu/events/upcoming.