The History of Black History Month & Staff Book Recommendations

Coffee Talk with Arts Infusion Artists – FORGE Manufacturing
February 18, 2022
Meet MOSH’s Community Education Coordinator Katie Connell
February 18, 2022

The History of Black History Month & Staff Book Recommendations

The History of Black History Month

Originating from historian Carter G. Woodson, in 1926 the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) dedicated the second week of February as a national celebration of achievements by Black Americans and other peoples of African heritage. Originally called “Negro History Week,” it became a country-wide event in the following decades. Nearing the end of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, the celebratory week evolved into Black History Month across many schools. President Gerald Ford officially declared February as Black History Month in 1976.

Today, we continue to celebrate the accomplishments of Black Americans, and we honor the legacy of African Americans across U.S. society. Since its official recognition, each February the ASALH selects a new theme to provide a fresh focus on achievements that merit emphasis. This year’s theme is Black Health and Wellness. The theme explores the “legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birthworkers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora. The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well.”

Staff Book Recommendations

MOSH’s Director of Curatorial Services, Dr. Mortimer, recommends:

All the Weight of our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism by Lydia Brown, Morenike Onaiwu, and E. Ashkenazy (Editors).

“61 authors contributed to this work, which features poetry, essays, short fiction, photography, and drawings that reflect the lives, political and social struggles, and artistic expression of the lives of persons of color who are on the autism spectrum. This anthology was moving to me, given my extensive work with K – 12 and college students with ASD and other learning differences—marginalization of the autistic community and the intersectionality of race and politics in their lives, and support systems requires attention. This work is starkly open and honest.”

Montage of a Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes.

“It is an unusual work— a book-length poem—that captures the post-WWII era segregation of U.S. society through Hughes’ own eyes, experiences, and artistry. Hughes understood the extensive code-switching behaviors that were essentially survival skills in such a divided era. Hughes uses a masterful combination of jazz, satire, callouts, and clapbacks to highlight the inequities he lived through on a daily basis and the desire to be safe and simply be himself.”

MOSH’s Volunteer Coordinator, Jasmine, recommends:

Fort Mose: Colonial America’s Black Fortress of Freedom by Kathleen Deegan & Darcie MacMahon

“The women that the authors depict at Fort Mose are African-Native American-Spanish citizens highlighting the multicultural and multiracial families that lived in Colonial Spain in St. Augustine, Florida. Dr. Kathleen Deegan is the archeologist who worked on the field dig sites for Fort Mose and helped to establish the site as a state park. This book is written for children and family readers.”

Indivisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas by the Smithsonian Museum of American Indian staff

While working for the National Park Service as a Centennial Volunteer Ambassador Intern and Park Ranger, one of Jasmine’s projects was a community-led Native American Heritage and History Day at Fort Hunt on land that had been a part of Mount Vernon in Virginia. One group of community leadership were the Pow Wow experts at the Smithsonian National Museum of American Indian. She found this book in the museum gift store. This book is written for high school and adult readers.

March and Run series by John Lewis

“Representative John Lewis wrote the graphic novel series with a team of comic book illustrators to use visual art to tell multiple perspectives of the Civil Rights Movement. He demonstrates how different philosophies shaped the national movement while reflecting upon experiencing the Inauguration of President Barack Obama in the first series. The first book of the second series was published in 2021 and explains how the different philosophies would develop into the Black Power movement of the late 1960s and 1970s. These developments would influence his decision to run for Congress. The graphic novels include the primary and secondary sources used to write the book and reflections from the illustrators on how to use the visual arts to honor the emotional realities of these historical moments. These graphic novel series were written for middle school readers with adult guidance and independent reading for high school students.”

MOSH’s HR Manager, Andricus, recommends:

Alkaline and Anti-Inflammatory Diet by Dr. Sebi

“In these modern times, we are facing a health crisis of sorts: many people are suffering from the results of an unhealthy lifestyle. In alliance with this year’s theme for Black History Month (Black Health and Wellness), this book recommends recipes, meal plans, and more to develop healthy habits.”

MOSH’s Digital Media Specialist, Meghan, recommends:

Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals

“This compelling memoir recounts the author’s experience as one of the Little Rock Nine—a group of African American students who challenged racial segregation in public schools following the 1954 Supreme Court ruling of Brown v. Board of Education. Beals shares her raw and vivid perspective of this monumental step forward during the Civil Rights Movement. This book was on my southern history professor’s recommended list for supplementary learning. It’s a remarkable story and is sure to enlighten others on powerful figures who paved the path for change in ideas of race and diversity.”