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. 

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 Education84(6), 335-341. https://www.socialstudies.org/sites/default/files/view-article-2020-12/se8406335.pdf

Resources for continued learning: 

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