In the year 1915, Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) to disseminate information about black life, history and culture to the global community. Under Woodson’s leadership, ASALH created research and publication outlets for black scholars and established “Negro History Week” – a celebration that took place during the second week of February in correspondence with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
It wasn’t until 1976, during the U.S. Bicentennial, that President Gerald Ford officially expanded upon this week-long event and designated the month of February as Black History Month (also known as African American History Month) in celebration of the history, culture, achievements, and contributions of African Americans. Since then, Black History Month has been annually recognized and celebrated in the U.S.; and more recently has been commemorated every February in Canada and observed every October in the U.K. and Ireland.
The theme for 2022, Black Health and Wellness, “acknowledges the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birth workers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora.” This year’s theme, in particular, is being recognized and illuminated by the museum community in a variety of unique ways.
Here, are just a few examples of how many museums and historical sites around the U.S. are celebrating Black History Month through exhibitions, in-personal events, and virtual happenings.
Hampton University Museum
Almost every state in the U.S. has a Black history museum or African American heritage site. The country's first and oldest is the Hampton University Museum in Hampton, Virginia. Aside from their current exhibition Changing Spaces, the Museum is celebrating Black History Month with a Tree House Learning Corner. Children are invited to learn about the lives of four unique African American artists and get a chance to create fun art inspired by these artists!
National Civil Rights Museum
One of the most famous Black history museums in the U.S. is the National Civil Rights Museum (NCRM) in Memphis, Tennessee. Throughout February and into March, NCRM is hosting numerous virtual events. First up, on February 3rd, NCRM held a powerful book talk on Race Against Time, with author Jerry Mitchell and Reena Evers-Everett, daughter of slain civil rights icon Medgar Evers. You can view the livestream recording here.
NCRM continues its programming with a springtime teacher workshop series, followed by a virtual screening of the documentary film “Fire in Anniston.” The film, being shown on Thursday, February 24, at 4 p.m. PST, tells the story of the 1961 Freedom Rides and bus burning that took place in Anniston, Alabama. You can view the film’s trailer and register for the screening here on the NCRM website.
Office of Historic Alexandria
This year, Office of Historic Alexandria in Virginia is celebrating Black History Month with an assortment of virtual events all month long, free and open to the public. These events include a month-long Martin Luther King Jr. Poster Exhibition, online discussions with historians, a film screening of Odessa’s Reign, and the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices in Concert. Visit Office of Historic Alexandria’s Black History Month Events 2022 page to read more info on each of these events and register.
National Museum of African American History and Culture
The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC invites everyone to celebrate Black Health and Wellness with them by reading their Stories, trying new recipes, engaging in health and wellness, and joining their virtual programs.
If you enjoy digging into some good history, NMAAHC’s online gallery of Stories ranges on topics from The Continuing Importance of Black History Month to The Historical Significance of Doulas and Midwives and more. If you’re interested in attending NMAAHC's virtual events you can do so every week. Here are just a few of their upcoming events:
Joyful Fridays: Maya Angelou – Friday, February 11 at 11am
Sweet Home Café Chef's Table with Chef Portia Brown – Friday, February 18 at 12pm
NMAAHC Kids: Classroom Connections – Tuesday, February 22 at 1:30pm
Historically Speaking: An Evening with Secretary Bunch and Ras Baraka – Thursday, February 24 at 7pm
Joyful Fridays: Black Creativity & Abstract Art – Friday, February 25 at 11am
To participate with NMAAHC on social media, download their social media kit (PDF version).
Black History 101 Mobile Museum
However, if there’s no Black history museum or heritage site near you, be sure to look out for the touring Black History 101 Mobile Museum – the nation’s premiere Black history traveling exhibit with an award-winning collection of over than 10,000 original artifacts of Black Memorabilia dating from the trans-Atlantic slave trade era to hip-hop culture.
As you can see, across the U.S. museums and historical sites are celebrating this year’s Black History Month and its theme of Black Health and Wellness in distinctive and exceptional ways. We hope you find enjoyment in these in-person and virtual offerings and become inspired to join in the celebration.
Written by Jessica Noyes, WMA’s Communications Specialist