Black History Month was officially recognized in 1976 by President Gerald Ford as a part of the celebration of the United States Bicentennial. It honors the history, culture, and achievements of African Americans and recognizes the key role blacks have played in the story of America.
Bring history to life during Black History Month with these suggestions:
- Invite guest speakers. Most cities have special celebrations honoring Black History Month complete with historical figures who were there in the moment. But go the extra mile — arrange for a speaker at the office, if possible. There may be historical figures living in your town.
- Pop quiz! What state was the first to elect a black governor? Virginia. True or false: The first president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was white. True. Come up with a contest and test employees on their black knowledge. How about a giveaway for the winners? (US News and World Report has many more quiz questions.)
- Enjoy traditional recipes. Food is an essential part of African-American culture, so have traditional foods catered, or better yet have others in the office make them. Explore other types of cooking by Googling one-of-a-kind recipes for Caribbean, African, and soul food. Also, check out restaurants in your area for more unique ideas.
- Watch a documentary or movie. Many networks and cable services feature special programming during Black History Month, emphasizing struggles, achievements, and heroes. Announce these so the office is aware. After watching, discuss what you’ve learned with the office. This is essential for family time as well.
- Bring music to life. The importance and influence of traditional black music can’t be overstated. Jazz, blues, hip-hop, and other genres of root-Americana music associated with black artists have left an indelible impact on America, and the world. Pipe examples of each style through the office, if possible.
- Discuss our heroes. Although this is likely to be more suited for family time, make sure everyone is aware of our historical heroes — sure Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman lead the cause but there are likely local heroes, perhaps a neighbor who participated in the civil rights movement? Help everyone understand that heroes may be living next door.
- Trace your roots. Research and document your family’s past in the tradition of Alex Haley, who in 1976 wrote “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” and Henry Louis Gates Jr., who hosts “Finding Your Roots” on PBS. What better way to make sure colleagues and members of your children see they are a part of a large, proud, interconnected family?
- Spread the word. Social media was made for this! Use Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn…all your favorites to mark this important month.