Black History Month 2022: What is it and why is it celebrated?

Every February, the US and other countries honour and celebrate Black people’s contributions and achievements.

Renee and Sithas Drumming performs onstage at the 4th annual Black History Month Festival at Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center, Los Angeles, in February 2021
Renee & Sithas Drumming performs onstage at the fourth annual Black History Month Festival at Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center, Los Angeles, US, on February 2021 [File: AFP]

The United States, Canada and Germany observe February as Black History Month.

The observance originated in the US to recognise and honour the contributions and achievements of the country’s Black populations and their role in US history.

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Other countries, including the Netherlands, Ireland and the United Kingdom, celebrate Black History Month in October.

Here is a quick guide:

What is Black History Month?

Black History Month is an annual celebration that started in the US in 1926. It was conceived by historian Carter G Woodson who proposed marking a time to honour African Americans and raise awareness of Black history.

The month of February was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln, the US president who issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, and Frederick Douglas, an African American orator, social reformer, writer and abolitionist.

In 1976, under President Gerald Ford, Black History Month was officially recognised in the country.

Currently, the White House defines it as “both a celebration and a powerful reminder that Black History is American history”.

The Month also honours the contribution and legacy of activists, politicians and civil rights pioneers, including Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, among others.

In Canada, Black History Month is seen as an opportunity to celebrate “the achievements and contributions of Black Canadians and their communities who … have done so much to take make Canada a culturally diverse, compassionate, and prosperous country”.

How is it celebrated?

In the US, Black History Month is celebrated with a range of activities, including events at universities, museums, public schools as well as within different communities across the country.

Every year there is also a theme that marks the celebration. This year’s theme is focused on Black people’s health and wellness.

According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), “the 2022 theme considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well”.

“This theme acknowledges the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (eg, birthworkers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc) throughout the African Diaspora,” ASALH says.

Source: Al Jazeera