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Celebrate Black History Month with these titles and events

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Olivia Reid
A student shops for a new book to read. Photo by Olivia Reid / Photography Editor.

February is Black History Month. The term was originally coined as Black History Week in 1926 by a group known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, according to History.com. The original week, being the second week in February, was chosen because it contains the birthdays of both Fredrick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. (1) Today, Black History Month is celebrated through events around the country and the sharing of information with books and movies. 

The City of Boston hosts several events for Black History Month. The Boston Public Library lists many events on their website under the “Events” tab, including a look into their special collections which features work from Black artists and creators. This is available in their Special Collections room from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every Wednesday and Friday in February. 

Another event hosted by the Boston Public Library is an author talk by poet Renée Watson and artist Ekua Holmes, who together created “Black Girl You Are Atlas.” The poetry collection was written by Watson and focuses on her identity through an intersection of race, class and gender. The book is illustrated by Holmes, a Roxbury native who focuses on colorful collage. 

The National Park Service and the Museum of African American History are hosting a virtual Black Heritage Trail Tour available on the NPS app and website. The tour takes place in Beacon Hill and covers ten stops with various historical sites. It ends at the Museum of African American History located on Joy Street, where visitors can walk around and explore more African American history. 

For those who don’t have time to participate in an event, there are plenty of books and movies to explore more of Black history on your own time. “How the Word is Passed” by Clint Smith has won several awards including the National Book Critics Circle Award and is a number one New York Times bestseller. Smith tells the story of several plantations and slavery-era monuments, focusing on the imprint of slavery on the United States. 

“The Three Mothers” by Anna Malaika Tubbs shares the lives of the mothers of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and James Baldwin. The stories of Black women are often forgotten in history, but Tubbs ensures that these women are highlighted for their profound impact. 

“Four Hundred Souls,” edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, uses a unique format to share African American history from 1619 to 2019. The book contains 80 chapters, each by a different author, creating a community history told by many voices from across disciplines. Each author provides their unique perspective on the topic they are covering to provide a profound look into African American history. 

Toni Morrison is one of the most famed American authors of all time. She has received countless awards for her work around the world. For those who have yet to read her work, her novels are essential to understanding American literary history. Any of her works would be a good read for this month, but maybe start with her most famous, “The Bluest Eye” or “Beloved.”

There are countless movies and documentaries to watch during Black History Month, but here are just a few major titles. “13th” on Netflix describes the history of the criminalization of African Americans in the United States. The film is titled after the 13th Amendment in the US Constitution which states that slavery and indentured servitude are illegal except when used as a punishment for a crime. This loophole in the amendment causes the legal use of prisoners for free labor.

“4 Little Girls,” a documentary on HBO Max and YouTube, tells the story of four young girls from the ages of 11 to 14. These four girls were killed in a bombing of their church by the Ku Klux Klan where they were attending Sunday service in 1963. The story of these girls, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, is told through news segments and footage from the time.

“Hidden Figures” has been a hit since its release in 2017. Starring Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monet, it shares the story of three NASA scientists, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, who launched astronaut John Glenn into orbit. It’s available on Disney+.

Whether you participate in these events and activities, it’s important to recognize Black History this month and every month.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month 
  2. https://www.nps.gov/boaf/virtual-black-heritage-trail-tour.htm 
About the Contributors
Rena Weafer, Arts Editor
Olivia Reid, Photo Editor