Black History Month provides an opportunity for all Americans to celebrate the achievements, contributions, and sacrifices of Black Americans. As this history has been neglected in the past, it is important to recognize the Black community’s cultural tenacity and triumphs in the face of extreme adversity. February also serves as a chance to understand how far we, as a nation, still need to go and commit collectively to ensure that Black History isn’t separate, but instead a fundamental and enshrined part of the American story.
Black History Month started in 1926 as “Negro History Week” by Carter G. Woodson, an American historian, who imagined a full week of dedicated education in public schools on Black history, seeing it treated as a ‘negligible factor’ at the time. Having founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Carter Woodson developed research and publications for Black scholars, eventually leading to more public appeal.
Picking the second week in February, as it aligned with the birthdays of Fredrick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln Woodson sought to broaden the American consciousness from the very white-centric history of the day. By the 1960s the weeklong celebration had extended to the full month of February and had become Black History Month.
2022: Black Health and Wellness
Each year Black History Month highlights an important theme, with 2022’s being Black Health & Wellness. This theme serves to both laud the substantial contributions made to the field of medicine by Black Americans and call out the still significant disparities in health outcomes for the Black people in our nation. As put by the Association For The Study of African American Life and History in their executive summary:
“In order to foster good health and wellness Black people have embarked on self-determination, mutual aid and social support initiatives to build hospitals, medical and nursing schools (i.e. Meharry Medical College, Howard University College of Medicine, Provident Hospital and Training School, Morehouse School of Medicine, etc.) and community clinics. Clinics were established by individuals, grassroots organizations and mutual aid societies, such as the African Union Society, National Association of Colored Women and Black Panther Party, to provide spaces for Black people to counter the economic and health disparities and discrimination that are found at mainstream institutions. These disparities and anti-Blackness led to communities developing phrases such as “When white folks catch a cold, Black folks get pneumonia.” “
Especially against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, where black people have experienced worse overall outcomes than their white counterparts, it is critical to utilize the data to examine how these systems need to be reconstructed to account for and work for everyone.
If you are interested in learning more The ASAALH month-long Black History Virtual Festival offers free and paid events featuring medical professionals, NFL players, authors, and thoughts leaders on different topics surrounding Black Health & Wellness. Find out more or attend an event here!