MAIN Holidays & Observances Black History Month 2023
"Black Resistance" is the theme
Black History Month 2023.
This year's theme for Black History Month, "Black Resistance", takes a look at how African-Americans have fought repression from America's earliest days.
From escaping the plantation, to the rise out of poverty and the struggle for equal housing and education to the struggle for voting rights, the resistance lives on even into the 21st century:
Beginning with colonial days, an act of resistance struck fear into the hearts of white slave owners in New York City as early as 1712.
More insurrections against slave owners would continue right into the mid-19th century.
Rebellions in New Orleans, South Carolina and, more famously in Virginia with Nat Turner's rebellion, were all quickly put down. Yet each insurrection helped to strengthen the resolve of black slaves to find any escape route from slavery.
By the mid-1800's, Harriet Tubman had proudly earned the nickname "The Moses of Her People" when she helped slaves travel into free states and into Canada and Mexico via the Underground Railroad. Tubman was only one of many who helped establish the secret network of escape routes (with safe houses along the way) which resulted in an estimated 100,000 slaves fleeiing to freedom.
President Abraham Lincoln would finally make escape routes unnecessary by signing the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, as tens of thousands of former slaves joined the Union forces during the U.S. Civil War.
In the years following, the infamous "whites only" Jim Crow laws that pervaded African-American life in the post-war period resulted in a form of passive resistance -- as millions moved with the Great Migration north beginning in the early 20th century. In the North, at least, and elsewhere blacks finally found their voice on stage, in sports, in the recording industry, or in the political arena
"Black Lives Matter carries on the legacy
of the 1960's Civil Rights Movement.
Black resistance was epitomized in sport stars like Jesse Owens (who brought even the Nazi regime down a notch with his stunning triumph during the 1936 Olympics).
In pop culture, singer Billie Holiday kept the black struggle in the national spotlight with her best selling hit, Strange Fruit ("Southern trees bear a strange fruit, blood on the leaves and blood at the root.")
By the 1960's resistance in the form of the Black Panthers was in counterpoint to the Civil Rights Movement which espoused more peaceful means to the same end.
Under the strong leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. the battle for equal rights extended to not only blacks but for other minorities and the white working poor.
Helping to finally end the last vestiges of Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement also gave impetus to inclusion of blacks in the political process that ultimately resulted in the election fo the first black US President in 2008.
Today, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement together with championing critical race theory in public schools continues the long and deep legacy of African-American resistance that is ongoing.
Resources for Black History Month 2023
Did African-American Slaves Rebel? PBS
Historicizing Black Resistance in the US
Freedom, Resistance, and the Journey Toward Equality
Black History Month 2022 rewind
"Black Health and Wellness" is the
Black History Month 2022.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has recently shown, a widespread disparity of access to quality healthcare negatively impacts outcomes for blacks and other minorities.
For African-Americans, the root of the problem goes deep, and back centuries.
Beginning with slavery a lack of economic opportunity, often put medical care out of reach for many African-Americans.
Even in good economic times, during the Jim Crow era "Whites Only" hospitals were commonplace throughout the South. Black medical facilities were often understaffed, underfunded, or non-existent. This stark reality gave credence to the saying: “When white folks catch a cold, black folks get pneumonia.”
Black folk remedies helped pick up the slack involving rituals and incantations, harking back to its African roots. Many plant-based medicines were also part of the cure. These included garlic for high blood pressure, and aloe vera for skin injuries which have since been validated in scientific studies.
It was only into the 20th century when Black America was given a better shot at institutional health care. That's when the US government threatened to withhold Medicare payments to 'Whites Only" medical institutions and -- almost overnight -- hospitals were desegregated. The year was 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
More than 40 years later, following years of negotiations with the health insurance industry, the Affordable Care Act was eventually passed by the Obama administration that gave better access to medical care for Americans of all colors.
Today, (almost unbelievably for a rich industrialized nation), the US continues to lag behind the rest of the world in providing affordable medical care for a majority of its citizens. As a result, African-Americans, other minorities and especially the poor remain among the country's most vulnerable populations.
Resources for Black History Month 2022
Race, Equality and Health Care for African Americans
Health and race disparities in America have deep roots: A brief timeline
All about Black History Month
Black History Month first originated as part of an initiative by writer and educator Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who launched Negro History Week in 1926. Woodson proclaimed that Negro History Week should always occur in the second week of February — between the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
Since 1976, every American president has proclaimed February as Black History Month. Today, other countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom also devote an entire month to celebrating black history.
The Web is a great place to find out more about that history — in poetry, literature, the arts, sciences, sports and entertainment — making Black History Month a time of fun, celebration, and learning.