By Liz Hensler
February is Black History Month in the US – a nationally recognized event for celebrating the central role Black Americans have in US History.
In 1915, Carter G. Woodson, known as the father of Black History, and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). The ASALH started the first Negro History Week in 1926, choosing the second week of February in honor of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays. Over the next forty or so years, cities across the country celebrated Negro History Week. With the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Negro History Week became Black History Month and was officially recognized nationally in 1976 by President Gerald Ford. Each year Black History Month has a national theme – 2021 celebrates Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity.
In the spirit of Do Good, Better’s motto “Learn, Connect, Do”, we created guide with some resources to celebrate Black History – not just this month, but all year round.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m a huge fan of podcasts – particularly during COVID-19. While spending most of our time at home, podcasts create a great opportunity to feel like you’re having conversations with other humans. Here are a few excellent podcasts focused on Black History.
Black History Buff Podcast
The Black History Buff podcast and blog tells stories from across the African Diaspora – from folktales, historical events, and historical figures. King Kurus meticulously researches his topics and the podcast was originally created as a way to teach his son – so it’s designed to be engaging for all ages. There hasn’t been a new episode in a few months, but there is a rich archive of hours of stories to listen to.
The Humanity Archive
Jermaine Fowler is an incredible historian. His podcast tells the stories of injustice against Black people across centuries, of social and civil rights movements, highlights historical figures from Muddy Waters to Ida B. Wells to Mansa Musa, and talks about his experience today living in Louisville, Kentucky. This is a go-to podcast for history fans.
In 2016, the Smithsonian opened the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In honor of the museum’s opening the Washington Post created this short (8 episodes) series of interviews featuring people who submitted objects and the stories behind each object. This show has a series of guest hosts we already know and love – including Issa Rae and Keegan-Michael Key.
For folks like me, a White person living in Brooklyn and having formerly worked in NYC education, this 2019 series should be required listening. Over eight episodes, the documentarians dive into the issues of race, class, and power and how they affect schools – through a deep dive into Central Brooklyn’s District 16.
Hosted by Adena J. White, Kara Wilkins, and Katrina Dupins, Blackbelt Voices celebrates Black Southern culture. The trio will make you laugh, learn, and be inspired to action. They talk about current events, provide advice, and host interviews with experts across sectors.
If you’re not into long podcasts, but love to learn, Noire Histoir is for you. Natasha McEachron packs a ton of information in her short episodes. This podcast has everything – biographies of historical figures, movie and book reviews, and histories of movements all within 5 to 25 minutes.
2021 Virtual Black History Month Festival
Host: Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)
What?: Throughout the month of February 2021, ASALH will host a festival, virtual programming in observance and celebration of the strengths, struggles, resistance—and the sheer perseverance of the Black family. The Festival will be a series of stellar educational events that demonstrate how Black people helped shape the American landscape and were shaped by it, posited through the lens of food, religion, social justice, education, economics, and music arts and their impact on the endurance of Black families.
When?: Events throughout the month of February
Courthouse Research: Using Probate Records To Research Enslaved Ancestors
Host: National African American History and Culture Museum
What?: Join LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, who will share best practices in using probate and other estate records to identify potential slaveholders. If you have identified the names of ancestors born during slavery and have stalled in your research, this lecture will help prepare you to break through the 1870 brick wall.
When?: Sat, February 6, 2021, 12:00 – 1:30 PM EST
Celebration Of African American Poets & Their Poetry
Host: West Oakland Library and Wanda Sabir
What?: For the past 31 years, the West Oakland Library has hosted the longest consecutive program in the City of Oakland. This year’s virtual event is hosted by Wanda Sabir in collaboration with Dr. Kim McMillon & “Wake Up America!”. This afternoon of poetry will celebrate the theme of The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity and honor the legacies of the late poets Adam David Miller and QR Hand. Featured poetry performances by Ishmael Reed, devorah major, Karla Brundage, Tongo Eisen-Martin, Avotcja, Kim McMillion, Raymond Nat Turner, Halifu Osumare, James Cagney, Makeda Esi, Zakiyyah G.E. Capehart, Amos White, and others.
When?: Facebook Live: Sat, February 6, 2021 1:00 – 4:00 PM PST
Policing While Black Webinar
Host: University of Southern California
What?: The relationship between police and the community has been at the forefront since George Floyd was murdered on May 25, 2020. However, the perspective of Black law enforcement professionals hasn’t always been part of that conversation. The “Policing While Black” webinar will explore what it’s like to be a Black police officer in today’s society and how to fight institutional racism and white supremacy from within police departments. The panel discussion is organized by SCI, the USC Black Alumni Association and the USC Department of Public Safety.
When?: Tues, February 9, 2021, 1:00 – 2:00 PM PST
Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll
Host: California African American Museum
What?: African American women have played a pivotal part in rock and roll—from laying its foundations and singing chart-topping hits to influencing some of the genre’s most iconic acts. Despite this, Black women’s importance to the music’s history has been diminished by narratives of rock as a mostly white male enterprise. In Black Diamond Queens, Maureen Mahon draws on recordings, press coverage, archival materials, and interviews to document the history of African American women in rock and roll between the 1950s and the 1980s. Join Mahon, Associate Professor in the Department of Music at New York University; Daphne Brooks, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of African American Studies, American Studies, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Music at Yale University; Gayle Wald, Professor of American Studies at George Washington University; and visual artist Nikita Gale as they discuss the book and the ways in which the history of performance impacts the CAAM exhibition, Nikita Gale: PRIVATE DANCER.
When?: Tues, February 9, 2021, 5:00 – 6:30 PM PST
Four Hundred Souls by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain
Host: New York Public Library
What?: Four Hundred Souls is a unique one-volume “community” history of African Americans. Ibram X. Kendi along with co-editor, award-winning historian Keisha N. Blain, assembled 90 writers to consider the 400-year journey of African Americans from 1619 to the present. Each member of the “community choir,” as Kendi calls it—“women and men, cisgender and transgender, younger and older, straight and queer, dark-skinned and light-skinned”—takes on a five-year period, examining it from their unique point of view and set of experiences. Join the editors Drs. Kendi and Blain alongside contributors Robert Jones, Jr. , Bernice L. McFadden, Dr. Blair L.M. Kelley for readings from the collection and a discussion on what it takes to develop a community history, by a community.
When?: Tues, February 9, 2021, 7:00 – 8:30 PM EST
Queer Heroes: Black History Month – James Baldwin
Host: LGBT Network
What?: Activist, writer, social critic, black, gay. All these adjectives describe James Baldwin – a queer hero. Come learn about him and his life! Learn your history with the LGBT Network’s special Black History Month series Queer Heroes, only on Instagram Live! This week we’ll learn about a writer and social critic, James Baldwin. Baldwin spent a majority of his literary and activist career educating others about black and queer identity. To listen to the virtual talk, follow the LGBT Network on Instagram (@LGBTNetwork)
When?: Fri, February 12, 2021 10:30 PM – 11:30 PM GMT
Black History Month Lecture: Dr. Douglas Flowe on Uncontrollable Blackness
Host: College of Charleston’s Department of History
What?: Dr. Douglas Flowe will give a virtual lecture based on his recent book, “Uncontrollable Blackness: African American Men and Criminality in Jim Crow New York”.
When?: Tues, February 16, 2021, 5:00 PM EST
Black History Trilogy II – Divine Sass: A Tribute to the Music, Life, and Legacy of Sarah Vaughan
Host: Flushing Town Hall
What?: In honor of Black History Month, Flushing Town Hall presents its Black History Trilogy, a three-part series of outstanding Broadway performers showcasing the music and speeches of influential African American artists, scholars, and leaders. On February 18 at 7:00 PM, the Trilogy continues with a presentation of “Divine Sass: A Tribute to the Music, Life, and Legacy of Sarah Vaughan,” featuring Tony Award-winning actress and vocalister Lillias White, who also wrote and conceived the show. White, who performed in Dream Girls, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, South Pacific and Cy Coleman’s The Life, will highlight the music and struggles of the African American Jazz Artist Sarah Vaughan, a pivotal figure in the formation of Be-Bop who has influenced generations of vocalists with her unique style of expression and melodic phrasing. Vaughan helped desegregate American airwaves and set the stage for the civil rights activism of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Born in Newark, New Jersey, Vaughan,called “Sassy” by the greatest Jazz musicians, was not only an extraordinary vocalist but a pianist, as well, who could accompany herself and perform alone if necessary.
When?: Thurs, February 18th, 7:00 PM EST
Be Love Campaign – February Series
Host: The King Center
What?: “What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote these words in his last book, ‘Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?’, which was published in 1967. The ideals shared within the quote are worth exploring to understand the connection between power, justice…and love. In conjunction with our Be Love campaign, The King Center presents a 3-part training series that will feature a study of this quote and other Kingian teachings that can help us ‘Be Love’ to create the Beloved Community.
When?: February 22, 23, and 25th, 2021, 6:00 PM EST
Mother Tongue: The Philosophy of Malcolm X
Host: New York Public Library
What?: Each year, the Schomburg Centers celebrates the life of Malcolm X during Black History Month – coinciding with the anniversary of his assassination on February 21, 1965. This year, our virtual program will feature a conversation and presentation by Anna Malaika Tubbs, author of The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation and Dr. Michael Sawyer, author of Black Minded: The Political Philosophy of Malcolm X. Together, we will explore how Malcolm X’s mother’s language of liberation and resistance is foundational to his political growth, and examine his political philosophy of economic and social justice, strident opposition to white supremacy and Black internationalism. Dr. Imani Perry, will moderate the conversation and offer a passage from her recent work, Breathe: A Lesson to My Sons.
When?: Monday, February 22, 2021, 6:30 – 8:00 PM EST
Navigating, Challenging, and Confronting Anti-Black Racism: Global Perspectives in Canadian Context
Host: Sheridan College
What?: In this facilitated keynote, we will review the roots of Black identity and Black history. Dr. Christopher Taylor will lead us on a journey of the histories of enslavement and colonization, engage in conversation on Black Canadian history, and leave us with some ‘food for thought’ on the present-day realities of Blackness for newcomers and Blacks in Canada.
When?: Tue, February 23, 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM EST
Discovering Black Voters in Early New Jersey: A Virtual Visit with Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills
Host: Museum of the American Revolution
What?: When Museum curators Dr. Philip C. Mead and Dr. Marcela Micucci discovered the name of a Black voter, Ephraim Hagerman, on a New Jersey poll list from 1801, they consulted Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum founders Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills to identify additional Black individuals who voted with him. Join Buck and Mills, co-authors of If These Stones Could Talk: African American Presence in the Hopewell Valley, Sourland Mountain, and Surrounding Regions of New Jersey (2018), for a virtual visit with Museum staff to the historical houses and cemeteries that still stand to commemorate these individuals and their legacies today in Montgomery Township, New Jersey. Following a special video presentation, Adrienne G. Whaley, Director of Education & Community Engagement, will facilitate an interactive discussion with Buck, Mills, Mead, and Micucci on genealogical research, public history, and African American stories behind the Museum’s current special exhibition When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, 1776-1807
When?: Thurs, February 25, 2021 from 6:00 – 7:15 PM EST
Stan (Marvel) Lee’s Black History
Host: Black History Walks
What?: Stan Lee of Marvel comics often used used his characters and stories as commentaries on personal development, morals, US politics and Civil rights struggles. He also borrowed from Greek, Roman and African mythology to create his comic universes. Much of this serious philosophical commentary has been forgotten in the wham-bam action of recent superhero movies. In this interactive presentation using film clips, interviews, comics and press articles. We will show how Stan Lee/Marvel was influenced by Black history and how his stories then influenced and inspired millions of people all over the world. This presentation will be jointly delivered by ‘The Investigator’ Andrew Muhammad and Black History Walks as an online event via Zoom.
When?: Fri, March 5, 2021 1:30 – 4:00 PM EST
Events for Kids
NMAAHC Kids: Joyful Fridays
Host: National African American History and Culture Museum
What?: Joyful Fridays: Black Music & Imagination Create a sculpture of recycled materials. Daring music, movement and costumes have always been a special part of Black history and culture. Join us to create sculptures inspired by the Mothership and talk about how people use music and movement to express their feelings, ideas and beliefs during this webinar-style Zoom class. Designed for: Children ages 4 to 8 years
When?: Fri, February 12, 2021, 11:00 – 11:45 AM EST
29th Annual African American Children’s Book Fair
Host: African American Children’s Book Project (AACBP)
What?: The African American Children’s Book Fair is one of the oldest and largest single-day events for African-American children’s books in the country is hosted by the African American Children’s Book Project (AACBP). The AACBP, a non-profit organization, was created in 1992 to promote and preserve children’s literature written by or about African Americans. The AACBP believes A BOOK OPENS UP A WORLD OF OPPORTUNITIES.
When?: Sat, February 6, 2021, 11:00 – 4:00 PM EST
While this month we’re talking specifically about history, we can’t stop advocating for Black Americans and communities most affected by harmful policy now. Right now, we’re fighting for important legislation that affects voting rights, economic policy, policing, equitable public health and COVID-19 response, and more – all issues that disproportionately harm Black communities. Here are some first step advocacy actions to take right now:
Join the NAACP’s #WeAreDoneDying Campaign:
- Demand justice for Jacob Blake
- Join the Contract for Black America – demanding quality education and healthcare, sweeping police reform, and economic change for communities facing disproportionate challenges.
- Contact your representative demanding:
- Deliberate and intentional Criminal Justice Reform that ensures the protection of Black lives, the expansion of the Home Confinement Pilot Program under the First Step Act, and a reduction in sentence for non-violent offenders.
- Expansive student loan relief to include a suspension of student loan payment until the economy gains strength, discharge of student loans for essential workers, and automatic cancellation of at least $20,000 in federal student loan debt for all.
- Expansion of Medicaid as a short-term measure to cover healthcare for those who are impacted by the pandemic.
- Federal funding for states to improve election administration and upgrade voting systems that comply with the CDC standard regarding COVID-19.
Invest (All Year)
If you are able, celebrate with your wallet!
Liz Hensler, MPA (she/her/hers) is the founder of Do Good, Better. She works in philanthropy in the humanitarian aid sector and has a background in NGO program management, corporate and community engagement, volunteer management, and communications. She is based in Brooklyn, NY.