History

Known as the “Father of Black History” and considered a pioneer in the study of African-American history, Carter G. Woodson is given much of the credit for Black History Month.

Woodson was born in Virginia in 1875 and was the son of former slaves. Growing up, access to a good education and job opportunities were limited, but he ended up studying at one of the few high schools for black students after saving money from working as a coal miner.

At 19, Woodson entered high school, where he completed a four-year curriculum in two years. He went on to earn his master’s degree in history from the University of Chicago and later earned a doctorate in history from Harvard. Disturbed that history textbooks largely ignored America’s black population, Woodson took on the challenge of writing black Americans into the nation’s history.

In 1926 he sent out a press release to mark the first Black History Week in the US. Woodson chose the second week of February for this celebration because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the black American population:

  • Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery and became an abolitionist and civil rights leader; though his birthdate isn’t known, he celebrated it on February 14.
  • President Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which abolished slavery in America’s confederate states; he was born on February 12.

The event expanded in 1970, and since 1976 every US president has officially designated February as Black History Month in the US. Throughout his life, Carter G Woodson worked tirelessly to promote black history in schools, leaving an indelible legacy.

Books to Read

Becoming: A memoir by the former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. She was able to establish herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the US and around the world. This book is the story of her time as the First Lady of the United States, going back to her childhood on the South Side of Chicago and balancing the demands of motherhood. With honesty and wit, she describes her opportunities and challenges from both her public and private life, using her very own words. This book will inspire you and can impact you deeply.

Black Enough: This is an excellent collection of contemporary short stories. All these stories are unforgettable and a few strong stories. All of the stories in the book will focus on being young and black in America. Reflecting on their identity, ideas of blackness, traditions, relationships, and experience in various locations across the country.

Dear Martin: Nic Stone tackles American race relations in this best selling novel in a raw, captivating, and undeniably real way. Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League – but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He can’t escape the scorn of his former peers and disrespect of new classmates. Using the teaching of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers he starts to journal to Dr. King. Then driving a nice day enjoying the weather, words fly, shots are fired. Justyce and his friend are caught in the crossfire and media fallout.

Other books to consider:

Born A Crime (Memoir)
Between the World and Me (Memoir)
Men We Reaped (Memoir)
The Hate U Give (Fiction)
Homegoing (Fiction)
Silver Sparrow (Fiction)
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (Autobiography)
Eloquent Rage (Non-fiction)
So You Want To Talk About Race (Non-fiction)

Movies

Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed: Pioneering politician Shirley Chisholm is the subject of this lauded documentary. The nation’s first African-American congresswoman, the passionate Chisholm launches a campaign for the United States presidency in the 1972 election, and wins an impressive amount of support, given the era and the still-prevailing prejudices of many voters. The film takes a close look at her presidential run, providing interviews with Chisholm and the dedicated individuals who worked on her groundbreaking campaign.

13th: Filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans. Watch on Netflix

Other Movies/Documentaries to consider

The Hate U Give
Moonlight
Hidden Figures
The Great Debaters
Fruitvale Station
Just Mercy
Uncorked
I Am Not Your Negro
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
American Son
Dance Dreams
Loving
Becoming
The Black Godfather
See You Yesterday
All In: The Fight for Democracy
BlacKkKlansman
Miss Virginia

Series

When They See Us: When They See Us is based on events of the April 19, 1989, Central Park jogger case and explores the lives of the five suspects who were prosecuted on charges related to the sexual assault of a female victim, and of their families. The five juvenile males of color, the protagonists of the series: Kevin Richardson (Asante Blackk), Antron McCray (Caleel Harris), Yusef Salaam (Ethan Herisse), Korey Wise (Jharrel Jerome), and Raymond Santana (Marquis Rodriguez), were divided by the prosecutor into two groups for trial. Each youth was convicted by juries of various charges related to the assault; four were convicted of rape. They were sentenced to maximum terms for juveniles except for Korey Wise, who was 16 at the time of the crime and treated as an adult by the legal system. He had been held in adult facilities and served his time in adult prison.

They filed a suit against the city in 2003 for wrongful conviction and were awarded a settlement in 2014. Watch on Netflix

Self Made: The inspiring story of trailblazing African American entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker who built a haircare empire that made her America’s first female self-made millionaire. Watch on Netflix

Other TV series to consider

Lovecraft Country (and the accompanying podcast, Lovecraft Country Radio)
Insecure (and the accompanying podcast, Insecuritea)
Watchmen
Pose
The Get Down
Black-ish
Black Lightning
The Neighborhood
Little Fires Everywhere
For Life
The Carmicheal Show

Podcasts

1619: Created as an accompaniment for the Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times 1619 project and hosted by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, this six-episode podcast examines the long-standing effect of slavery in America. Through engaging storytelling, topics such as music, the economy, and health care are examined through a historically accurate lens.

Levar Burton Reads: Hosted by actor LeVar Burton, this podcast is made for folks who love great stories. Modeled after the PBS television show that Burton hosted in the 80s, the best explanation is that this podcast is Reading Rainbow for adults. Each week Burton reads a different short story. He makes a point to highlight authors of different backgrounds who write in different genres. Before reading each story, Burton gives insight into any cultural significance that may be highlighted, which makes the podcast both educational and entertaining.

Podcasts to consider:

Code Switch
Black Issue
Going Through It
Strong Black Lead
Still Processing
Black Men Can’t Jump in Hollywood
The Nod
Therapy for Black Girls
Uncivil
On She Goes
Gettin’ Grown
Sooo Many White Guys
Making
Represent