Black History Month Ideas for Your Family

How Is Your Family Honoring Black History Month - by Elizabeth B. Martin, Author and Illustrator
How Is Your Family Honoring Black History Month - by Elizabeth B. Martin, Author and Illustrator

Before the month ends, I need to sneak in this post about Black History Month and share with you some ideas on how you can commemorate this month with your kids with activities in the home.

First, let’s talk about the genesis of this tradition.

Do You Know the Story Behind Black History Month?

Did you know that it’s not only celebrated in the U.S. but Canada and the United Kingdom as well? Both the U.S and Canada celebrates it in February, but the U.K. honors this month-long recognition in October.

Some people believe that Black History Month – also known as African-American History Month in the U.S., is a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But that’s not true.

This month-long recognition of the Black culture was started in remembrance of the history of the African diaspora. The African diaspora refers to the communities that descended from African nations – primarily in West and Central Africa – who were enslaved and shipped to numerous countries as part of the Atlantic slave trade.

The enslavement of Africans was truly a sad and repulsive event in our history.

Black History Month Began with a Week of Recognition

While researching this post, I learned something new. In 1926, historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History decided that the second week of February would be recognized as Negro History Week. I was also surprised to find out that Woodson and the Association chose the second week of February because it coincided with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14). Apparently, Black communities had been celebrating those birthdays since the late 1800s.

Woodson further supported the launch of Negro History Week with this reasoning:

If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated. 

Books and Activities to Help Your Kids Honor Black History Month

Your toddler or kindergartener may be too young to take in the gravity of the history of Black History Month, but there are ways you can help them to commemorate this significant, month-long recognition of the Black culture and its numerous contributions to our nation.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Check out my brand new Black History Month Books for Kids pinboard on Pinterest. You’ll find plenty of books you can read with your children. 
  2. Bake sweet potato biscuits, a traditional soul food treat. Don’t they sound yummy? 
  3. Listen to the blues. Enjoy the music of B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Ray Charles, and others.
  4. Teach your kids how to plan Mancala, an ancient African board game. 
  5. Teach your older kids about Jim Crow, a slang term for a Black man. Jim Crow also referred to states laws passed in the Southern states that established different rules for Blacks and whites. These laws were, of course, based on the theory of white supremacy. Jim Crow laws began in 1877 and continued into the mid-1960s.
  6. Search on the Internet for James Karales’sphotographs of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches  or look at these images from the New York Times.
  7. Watch movies in which famous Black actors are prominent, including Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Samuel L. Jackson, Danny Glover, James Earl Jones, Forest Whitaker, Don Cheadle, and Cuba Gooding, Jr.
  8. Watch movies featuring Black actresses, including Halle Berry, Angela Bassett, Jada Pickett Smith, Whoopi Goldberg, Queen Latifah, and Oprah Winfrey.
  9. Incorporate recipes, music, and movies in a way that flows for your family.

What are you doing to honor Black History Month with your children?

Elizabeth B. Martin is the author and illustrator of six picture books for children. You can view her books here for free and download a Free coloring book here