The Eastsider

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    It’s February and the city is buzzing with programs, events, and many opportunities to celebrate Black History month. But before I share some of my favorite spaces to learn more about the contributions and legacy of African Americans, I want to provide a brief history about the creation of Black History month.

    Carter G. Woodson was a historian and scholar who dedicated his life to educating others about the contributions of African Americans. In 1926, he created Negro History Week as a direct challenge to the curriculum of the time that often degraded and dehumanized Black people. It was also a call for social justice and change.

    Woodson did not make his dream a reality on his own. He had the supportive hands of thousands of Black teachers, mostly women, community members, churches, sororities and fraternities, and civic organizations. Essentially, he wanted everyday people, not just laypeople to get involved in sharing and learning about Black history.

    By 1960s, the term “negro” was replaced with “Black.” This change was born out of the civil rights movement and the excitement of a new generation. Negro History Week started to shift and expand. By 1976, it officially became Black History Month when U.S. president Gerald Ford extended the recognition to “honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

    Carter G Woodson wanted to ensure that the contributions and legacy of African Americans was reflected honestly and with academic rigor. His goal was never to depend on the need for Black History month, but to design an education system that honored the lives and history of African Americans, every day. February serves as a great opportunity to learn about the history and contributions of African Americans, and can be used as a personal reminder to remain sensitive to Black History, all year long!

    Black History Venues
    As you prepare to celebrate Black History Month expand your knowledge about the Black experience by visiting the places and exhibits below.

    The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture: The founding Director, Lonnie G. Bunch, III encourages everyone to visit. “This Museum will tell the American story through the lens of African American history and culture. This is America’s Story and this museum is for all Americans.” Pan your visit and learn more here: https://nmaahc.si.edu/

    DC Public Library: Check out the exhibit Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley: Let the World See. According to the website the “exhibit shows how a fight for justice launched the Civil Rights movement and its ongoing relevance to activism today.” Learn more about the exhibit here: https://www.dclibrary.org/node/69481

    Frederick Douglass National Historic Site: Frederick Douglass was a writer, public servant, abolitionist, and orator. Touring his home, Cedar Hill, helps viewers understand his life, character, and dedication to the fight to end slavery. Although, The Frederick Douglass NHS is closed for in-person visitation due to renovations, you can take a virtual tour here anytime: https://www.nps.gov/frdo/learn/photosmultimedia/virtual-tour.htm

    The Anacostia Community Museum: ACM has several Black History Month events; Feb. 4 – Magnificent Monuments, Culture Queen Kids Hour; Feb. 19-  Art & Calls to Action with Yetunde Sapp; Feb 23. – Lion of Anacostia: Frederick Douglass, Coffee and Collections Series. If you haven’t been to the museum, definitely go. You will learn a lot. Their mission statement says it all.  “As our neighborhoods undergo social, economic, and environmental changes that individuals alone cannot address, there is a need for communities to bring together their combined knowledge and strengths. As a museum that convenes people and ideas, ACM documents and preserves communities’ memories, struggles, successes, and offers a platform where diverse voices and cultures can be heard. We believe that bridging disparate parts of our communities can bring collective action to bear on forging a better future together.” Check out the exhibits, outdoor community installations, and virtual offerings here: https://anacostia.si.edu/about-us

    Leniqua’dominique Jenkins holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Houston and has worked on Capitol Hill and in Africa, India and Spain. She is a preschool teacher at a language immersion school in Ward 7.