Every February, we honor the achievements of African Americans. Black History Month is an opportunity to recognize the vital role that this traditionally marginalized group has had in American history and culture. There are so many different ways to celebrate black history, no matter where you are. Here are a few things you can do to commemorate Black History Month in three of our favorite cities.
The Origin of Black History Month
Before we jump into the celebration, let’s learn a little more about how Black History Month became such a time-honored tradition. The story begins in 1915, fifty years after the abolition of slavery and the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment. In September 1915, Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-educated historian, and Jesse E. Moorland, a well-known minister, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (later known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History). This was an organization devoted to researching and advancing the achievements of black Americans.
In 1926, the ASALH decided to sponsor a national Negro History week. They chose the second week in February for their event to correspond with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. The weeklong celebration inspired communities around the country to organize local lectures, performances, and celebrations. By the 1960s, Negro History Week had evolved into Black History Month. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month, and it has been widely celebrated ever since.
Kansas City, MO
No matter if you’re visiting Atlanta this February or any time of year, there are plenty of ways to honor African American history and culture. As your first stop, head to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. You can take a tour of King’s birth home, the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the King Center. At the King Center, visit the reflecting pool before viewing the exhibits on Dr. and Mrs. King, Rosa Parks, and Gandhi.
The APEX Museum bills itself as a museum “where every month is Black History Month.” APEX offers a view of American history from the African American perspective. Their “Sweet Auburn Street Pride” exhibit is a must-see; it provides a local history of the area and features a replica of one of Atlanta’s first African-American owned businesses.
The Center for Civil and Human Rights creates a link between the American Civil Rights Movement to our modern, global human rights movements. While every exhibit is worth checking out, you won’t want to skip “The Meaning of Hope: The Best of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection.” You can view some of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s personal papers and items that commemorate some of his most well-known works.
If you’re going to be in Kansas City this month, there are so many ways you can honor the achievements of black Americans. Start by heading to the American Jazz Museum. The museum is located in the historic jazz district, where Count Basie, Charlie Parker, and countless other iconic musicians defined the genre in the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s. Explore the interactive exhibits and learn all about the history of jazz.
Next, check out the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, a space dedicated to honoring the history of African American baseball and its impact on the country. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro National League (the US’s first successful black baseball league). Celebrate the centennial and check out all of the exhibits at the museum.
The National WWI Museum and Memorial is another must-see stop in Kansas City. The museum has a permanent exhibit that spotlights the African American men and women who served the country in any capacity. Spend some time reflecting at the memorial before touring all of the informative exhibits at the museum.