“African Americans and the Arts” is the theme of this year’s Black History Month and there will be a wealth of programming on radio, TV, and all media spotlighting distinguished artists and arts in all genres. Bedford’s own celebration is coming up on Thursday, Feb. 8 when poetry and dancing will be featured. Learn more at https://thebedfordcitizen.org/2024/01/black-history-month-community-celebration-at-bhs-on-feb-8/
But who determines this theme? And how did Black History Month become so important a part of the national calendar?
It’s the work of an organization started by distinguished Black writer and publisher Carter G. Woodson, sometimes known as the Father of Black History, who first organized Negro History Week in 1926.
Woodson chose February because it was the birth month of Abraham Lincoln and Frederic Douglass. He also founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life, which today is called The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), an acronym that isn’t as familiar to many readers as “NAACP” or “SCLC” or “SNCC.” For more information, visit https://asalh.org/about-us/.
Born in Virginia, the son of former slaves, Woodson attended Berea College in Kentucky, then worked for the U.S. government in the Philippines. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Chicago before entering Harvard, where he earned a doctorate (only the second African American after W.E.B. DuBois to receive that distinction).
Woodson’s home in Washington, D.C., where he wrote and published journals devoted to Black history (or Negro history as it was then called), is now a national historic site. For a fascinating look at Dr. Woodson’s accomplishments, see the Feb. 1 article in The Washington Post: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/how-carter-g-woodson-turned-february-into-black-history-month/ar-BB1hCtYQ
This year’s theme
Here’s what ASALH says about this year’s theme”
“African American art is infused with African, Caribbean, and the Black American-lived experiences. In the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary, and other forms of cultural expression, the African American influence has been paramount. African American artists have used art to preserve history and community memory as well as for empowerment. Artistic and cultural movements such as the New Negro, Black Arts, Black Renaissance, hip-hop, and Afrofuturism have been led by people of African descent and set the standard for popular trends around the world. In 2024, we examine the varied history and life of African American arts and artisans.”
The ASALH website traces the evolution of Black culture in America over a 300-year span, honoring Black writers, artists, crafters, actors, and musicians. Read more at https://asalh.org/black-history-themes/.