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The history of Black History Month

Photo of girls making a display for National Book Week
Photo courtesy of the Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

The history of Black History Month

In this installment of the “Tiny Lectures” video series, Assistant Professor Michael Hines talks about the evolution of Black History Month.

It’s February, and many teachers and schools have been taking time to celebrate Black History Month. But there are still misunderstandings and misconceptions about the past, present and future of this celebration, says Michael Hines, an assistant professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education.

What we now know as Black History Month was invented by educator and activist Carter G. Woodson in 1926 as Negro History Week, says Hines, who teaches about the history of education, and specifically the history of African American education, in the United States.

“It was a direct challenge to traditional curricula of the time period, which often degraded and dehumanized Black people,” he says. “More than just a chance to talk about a few notable achievements, Negro History Week was a call to action.”

Is the celebration still relevant today? Some say that the progress made over the past 100 years has largely made Black History Month irrelevant or, worse, that “singling out Black history is actually counterproductive to broader efforts at inclusion,” says Hines.

In this installment of the “Tiny Lectures” video series by the Stanford News Service, Hines talks about the beginnings and evolution of Black History Month, “a celebration, a stinging indictment and a call to action — all in one.”

Faculty mentioned in this article: Michael Hines

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