February is the shortest month of the year. February is also usually the coldest month of the year. In my family, February is also a big birthday month with my father, my mother, my husband, his mother and father all having birthdays within two weeks of each other. But for me, February has always been my favorite month (tied with my birth month, August) because February is Black History Month.
Black History Month started out as Negro History Week in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson. The second week of February was chosen in honor of Fredrick Douglass and Abraham both had birthdays during that week, and the founding of the NAACP on February 9, 1909. It was officially recognized as Black History Month in 1976 by President Gerald Ford.
I was always that kid in school when I had to research or write a report, I would always find an African American within the subject. I would read books in high school about Black history for entertainment. I still read autobiographies on African Americans and watch documentaries on Black history because that’s what I enjoy. Black history has always been my first love although I didn’t pursue it in education or occupation. But this love of Black history that is often looked over in American history has given me a solid foundation as a family historian researching African American ancestry.
Throughout my teens and 20s I learned about all the prominent African Americans, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Jackie Robinson, Harriet Tubman, Dorothy I. Height, Langston Hughes, Dorothy Dandridge, Daisy Bates, the Tuskegee Airmen, and Phyllis Wheatley just to name a few. But in my 30’s I started researching my family and my hometown community and that’s when I started learning about the drum majors of social change and education in my local area like, Gladys Denson Mays, Nola Holt Royster, John L Colbert, and Ollie Adams Burton. I was able to learn about my 3X great grandfather, Robert Hatchett, who was enslaved in Arkansas and was emancipated by Col Samuel Curtis on July 03, 1862, in Jackson County Arkansas. I learned about my grandfather’s singing group, the United Harmonizers, being the first African Americans to have a program on KNBY in Newport, Arkansas. I was able to walk back in time and tour the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum, perhaps walking in some of the places my ancestors had walked over a century ago. I am finding Black history and American history within my own family.
I celebrate Black History throughout the entire year. But during Black History Month I like to share what I have learned about my family because history makers aren’t always famous. I celebrate Black History Month by engaging others in our history both my family history and our nation’s history. Because of this genealogy journey the phrase ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud’ has taken on a whole new meaning for me. How are you celebrating Black History Month? Is it a year-long celebration or just a month? What interesting historical information have you found during your family history research?