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Program leaders are responsible for ensuring that classroom teachers acknowledge, teach about, and celebrate special times of the year. Black History Month presents the opportunity to support teachers as they highlight people who worked and still do work for social justice.
For me, Black History Month is a time to remember those influential African Americans who have contributed to the United States. In my younger years, I remember learning about great African American men and women in history who made an impact in their communities and around the world. I can’t say that I remember everyone off the top of my head, but I certainly remember most. Now, as a professional in the field of early care and education and as a grandmother, it is important to me to make sure I continue to learn and teach about Black history.
Below is a brief spotlight on a few important aspects of Black history that I hope you can learn from and share with your staff and the children and families you serve.
DR. CARTER G. WOODSON
Historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson is considered the father of Black History Month. He was born in New Canton, VA, on December 19, 1875. Dr. Woodson was the founder of The Journal of Negro History. He was the second African American to graduate with a doctoral degree from Harvard University. The National Museum of African American History and Culture mentions him as “founding the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in Chicago.” He also spent a little time in Chicago at the Wabash Avenue YMCA and in the Bronzeville neighborhood.
The Significance of February
I do not remember learning why Black History Month was in February. I have heard many people ask, “Why do we get the shortest and the coldest month?” February was chosen as Black History Month to coincide with the birthdays of President Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass. According to The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Black communities have celebrated Black history together during February since the late 19th century.
I also do not remember learning about “Black Eden” in school; I never heard my elders speak of it. In fact, 2022 was my first exposure to a place that Blacks had frequented for years, even though it is only four hours away from where I live. Beginning in 1912, Idlewild, Michigan, became home to a vacation resort that catered to Black families and lovingly became known as “Black Eden.” From 1912 until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, segregation and racism made Black Eden one of the only safe places where Black people could own vacation property, relax, and freely enjoy time with friends and family. Some well-known black entertainers such as Della Reese, Jackie Wilson, The Temptations, and Aretha Franklin have all performed at Idlewild over the years. Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, W.E.B. DuBois, and Madam C.J. Walker are among the famous Black figures who owned land there.
THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY
A common saying goes, “My people perish for the lack of knowledge.”
Over the years, the Black Panther Party has often been portrayed as a militant group of Black people who were racist. But when we research and learn more about the group, we discover that this is not at all what the organization was about.
The Black Panther Party was established in 1966 as a Black power movement against police brutality. The organization focused its attention on the community and had a program called the “survival program.” The program provided free breakfast to 20,000 children each day as well as free food to families and elderly community members. The Black Panthers also distributed clothing, provided transportation, had legal aid offices, and sponsored community schools. They had health clinics and sickle-cell testing centers in many cities. These organized community outreach programs that the Black Panthers built are rarely mentioned in history books.
As we look back on history to see how things have changed since the time of the Panthers, we find many things have remained the same. There is still police brutality and injustice, and opportunities are still not equal. Our work for equality is far from over.
How do we keep Black history relevant beyond Black History Month? By always remembering the contributions that African American people have made worldwide.
Shuntae Richardson, M.P.A., is Professional Leadership Team Administrative Assistant IV for the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University. She is the founder of the One Accord Community Development Organization and a member of The National Society of Leadership and Success. Shuntae holds an Associate’s degree in hospitality from Robert Morris University, a baccalaureate in behavioral science, and a Master’s degree in public administration from National Louis University. Shuntae has over 20 years of experience in the non-profit and corporate sectors. Her professional experience includes: accounting, customer service, insurance claims, office management, mortgage lending, event planning, and community and business development. Shuntae has professional affiliations with many organizations and has served as a board of trustee member for several non-profit organizations. She has served on planning committees for villages, townships, and the chambers of commerce in various communities. Shuntae has traveled throughout the Chicagoland area, presenting workshops in corporate settings, and facilitating budgeting simulations in high schools. She has been instrumental in motivating and encouraging others to reach their highest potential.