Celebrating Black Historical Consciousness
Black History Month is a special tribute to a time of acknowledgment, reflection, and inspiration, and serves as a reminder of the importance of continued ongoing study and celebration of Black History throughout the year. The legacy of Black History Month dates back to 1926 when historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson recognized the lack of history and perspectives of African Americans in the nation’s curriculum throughout his studies. Dr. Carter G. Woodson stated that African-American contributions were too often “overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.” To preserve Black history and to amplify Black voices, Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. While the activism of Woodson worked to establish Black History Month, Woodson never considered Black History to be a week-long or month-long event; rather, his work and dedication represented an ongoing study of African American history, month after month, year after year.
Thus, while February is a month dedicated to celebrating and honoring the influences of Black people, communities, and histories, Black history cannot be contained in the 28 days of February. King (2020) states that many educators incorporate Black History as a mere act of inclusion rather than a critical act of justice to center Black Historical Consciousness to elevate Black voices and perspectives throughout history.
King (2020) gives the example of an educational lesson on Brown vs. the Board of Education. While an educator may incorporate Black historical figures and events into the lesson, they may also simultaneously ignore the voices and experiences of Black people. Often, the historical narrative of Brown vs. the Board of Education is told as an uplifting story of racial integration, which systemically ignores the trauma and pain of Black students, parents, and community members, who experienced the echoes of racism and were inconvenienced and bused to white schools. This whitewashed narrative also ignores the academic rigor and success of predominantly Black schools before Brown vs. the Board of Education was signed into law.
To counter perpetuating whitewashed narratives of Black History, educators should strive to teach history through and from Black historians and Black people’s narratives and perspectives. To do so, King (2020) shares a framework for Black Historical Consciousness, which is a pedagogical stance to (re)define the teachings of Black History towards recognizing Black people’s humanity and nuanced narratives. The six components of the Black Historical Consciousness framework are outlined below.
- Power and Privilege. Black History cannot be taught without acknowledging the multifaceted systems of oppression, such as white supremacy, anti-Blackness, and racism, apparent in U.S. history and present society.
- Black Agency, Resistance and Perseverance. Black History cannot be taught without acknowledging the agency, resistance, and perseverance of Black people and communities who fought back against oppressive structures.
- Africa and the African Diaspora. Black histories should stress that narratives of Black people should be contextualized within the African Diaspora. A course in Black history should begin with ancient African history and connect the various Black histories around the globe.
- Black Joy. Black History should include Black joy to include times of happiness, togetherness, and the fight for freedom for generations, both past and present.
- Black identities. Black history should not only be about middle-class Black men, Christian, heterosexual, and able-bodied individuals. Rather, we should remember to uplift the multiple narratives of all Black identities across ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, religion/spirituality, nationality, and socioeconomic status.
- Black Historical Contention. Black historical contention is the recognition that Black histories are not positive. Black histories are complex, and the difficult histories of slavery, racial segregation, and racial discrimination should not be ignored.
To read King’s (2022) article, please click the link below:
King, L. J. (2020). Black history is not American history: Toward a framework of Black historical consciousness. Social Education, 84(6), 335-341. https://www.socialstudies.org/sites/default/files/view-article-2020-12/se8406335.pdf
Resources for continued learning:
Organizations on social media:
- Antiracism Center: Twitter
- Audre Lorde Project: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- Black Women’s Blueprint: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- Color Of Change: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- Colorlines: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- The Conscious Kid: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- Equal Justice Initiative (EJI): Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- Families Belong Together: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- MPowerChange: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- Muslim Girl: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- NAACP: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- National Domestic Workers Alliance: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- RAICES: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ): Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- SisterSong: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- United We Dream: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
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