This toolkit is an expansion of a Black History Month post I wrote for the TodayShow Parent Community: 5 ways to celebrate Black History Month for All Families.
February is Black History Month — a month dedicated to celebrating the achievements, culture and history of Black people in America and abroad. Black History Month started as an effort by Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland in the early 20th century to celebrate and research accomplishments and contributions by people of African descent. Everyone should celebrate Black History Month, using it as an opportunity to jumpstart your exploration and honoring of Black culture and the contributions made by Black people toward the advancement of humanity throughout time.
*This is a living document, so we'll be updating and changing out resources every-now-and-then.
*This is a living document, so we'll be updating and changing out resources every-now-and-then.
Libraries and Bookstores
We love books. Books are the easiest entry point to celebrating and introducing stories and experiences of cultural significance in an engaging and meaningful way. Take the time to read books that either feature Black characters, highlight a moment in Black History, or are written by Black authors.
During Black History Month your local library and school library will often have a display or recommended book list.
Here are just a few great books for each age group to get you started:
Tiny People (0-5)
- Dream Big, Little One - Vashti Harrison
- You Matter - Christian Robinson
- Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas - Gwendolyn Hooks, illustrated by Colin Bootman
- More Than a Princess - Delanda and Terrence Coleman, illustrated by Beatriz Mello
- The First Rule of Punk - Celia A. Pérez
- The Season of Styx Malone - Kekla Magoon
- A Good Kind of Trouble - Lisa Moore Ramée
- The Stars Beneath Our Feet - David Barclay Moore
- As Brave As You - Jason Reynolds
- This Side of Home - Renée Watson
- Copper Sun - Sharon M. Draper
- Children of Blood and Bone - Tomi Adeyemi
- The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man - James Weldon Johnson
- Becoming - Michelle Obama
- The Nickel Boys - Colson Whitehead
- Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi
Not sure where to purchase these items? Support Black-owned bookstores! Here's Oprah's 125 Black-Owned Bookstores in America That Amplify the Best in Literature.
Movies and Documentaries
Visual images are an excellent opportunity to take a trip through history and begin meaningful discussions. As responsible consumers of media, we must continue to challenge the portrayal of Black people in media. For those who do not live around Black people or have Black friends and acquaintances, media and the news are their only introduction to Black culture and Black people.
Watch a documentary that reveal some aspect of Black history or culture. This month consciously select stories that showcase Black characters and Black stories from Black perspectives.
Better yet, find stories directed and produced by Black people as well. Below are a few examples across a multitude of digital platforms, but don’t hesitate to search your local library, video store, or streaming service for more:
- Something the Lord Made (2004 - HBO Max,PG)
- Pride (2007 - HULU, PG)
- Chi-Town (2018 - AmazonPrime Video)
- Hidden Figures (2016 - Disney+, PG)
- Becoming (2020- Netflix, PG)
- She Did That (2019 - Netflix, TV-PG)
- I Am Not Your Negro (2017 - Netflix, PG-13)
- “African American English through the Years” - A Presentation by Dr. Lisa Green of UMass Amherst (2017 - YouTube)
- Freedom Riders (2010 - PBS)
- The Murder of Emmett Till (2003 - PBS, with subscription credentials)
Need more suggestions? Check out this list of The 115 Best Black Movies of the 21st Century via Rotten Tomatoes.
Music and Art
Music and art are cultural forms of expression that give individuals the space to speak freely and interpret their experiences in the world. Unfortunately much of Black art and music is often consumed widely with little thought to the words, the intention, and the nuance behind the artist's message. During Black History Month we challenge you to slow down and look at Black art, listen to the musician's words and try to feel what they are saying to you about the world they see.
Check out these Black visual artists!
Black music isn’t just Rap, Jazz, or the Blues… in fact, pretty much all of music in the United States is connected to Black music (yes, especially Country and Rock and Roll). Visit the National Museum of African American Music site to learn more about the impact of Black musicians on American music!
Black Music Playlists on Spotify
- Black History Salute Spotify playlist
- NMAAM Black History Month Spotify playlist
- Negro Spirituals Spotify playlist
- BlackLove BlackLives Spotify playlist (some explicit lyrics)
- chez baldwin - James Baldwin’s Entire Record Collection Spotify playlist
- Ginger Me Spotify playlist
- Queens of Disco Spotify playlist
- Funk Outta Here Spotify playlist
- Jazz Classics Blue Note Edition Spotify playlist
- All Out 50s Spotify playlist
- Dancehall Spotify playlist
- Motown Soul Number Ones Spotify playlist
- 90s Neo Soul Spotify playlist
- 70's & 80's AfroBoogie Spotify playlist
- Gospel Music Spotify playlist
- Ethiopian Jazz Spotify playlist
- Sweet Honey In The Rock Spotify playlist
What about podcasts?!? Chill... we got you
- 8 Podcasts to Better Understand the Black Experience
- 14 Excellent Podcasts by Black Creators to Download Now
- 12 Black Podcasts You Need to Add to Your Rotation via Essence Magazine
BHM Challenge: Read and recite poetry written by Black writers like Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Paul L. Dunbar, Saul Williams, Eloise Greenfield, or so many others! We recommend:
Restaurants and Recipes
Food is culture!
Kelly Fanto Deetz wrote an essay which was featured on the Smithsonian Magazine website that explains the history of Black people shaping the landscape of gastronomy in America. Read it here.
Below we included a taste (all pun intended) of chefs who are products of the diaspora as well as directories to Black-owned eateries. Take a break from your usual takeout routine and order from an African American-, Caribbean-, or African-owned restaurant instead.
Try out the recipes from this list or find other Black chefs and restaurateurs in your area to patronize:
- Zainab, of A Classic Twist blog, dazzles with her Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Compote, available here
- You can substitute the blueberry compote topping for one of three select flavors of Michele’s Syrups available at select stores
- Darius “DaruisCooks” Williams of DariusCooks.TV gives his recipe for Pressure Cooker Oxtails. The oxtails may be substituted with short ribs for this recipe.
- Haile Thomas, in her eponymous food and wellness blog, creates Sweet Potato Risotto-Stuffed Sweet Potato Boats. Shout out to the vegans... This recipe is plant-based and Vegan-friendly.
Black-Owned Restaurants Directories*
*Note: Not all restaurants listed on the following directories are open as some have been forced to close their doors due to being negatively impacted by the pandemic.
Museums and Cultural Centers
Black History Month is a time that many museums and cultural centers will hold special exhibits to recognize the achievements of pioneering Black Americans. They serve as spaces that preserve Black culture, history, and heritage. Due to the pandemic, many of these facilities have temporarily closed their doors, but you can still visit them online. Be mindful of what the purpose of a museum is, a physical representation of a historical moment. The collection of these moments make our history, American History.
Find a local museum or visit one of these museums and cultural centers focused on preserving Black history and Black culture:
- National Museum of African American Heritage (Washington, D.C.)
- National Museum of African Art (Washington, D.C.)
- Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (New York)
- The King Center (Georgia)
- Whitney Plantation (Louisiana)
- The National Memorial for Peace and Justice (Alabama)
- National Museum of African American Music (Tennessee)
- National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Ohio)
- Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (Michigan)
- DuSable Museum of African American History (Illinois)
- California African American Museum (California)
- United States Civil Rights Trail (across 15 states)
Black History Discussion Questions and Personal Reflections
- How have Black experiences in the United States influenced and even created changes to the U. S. Constitution that all people benefit from?
- How is the Black experience in the United States intertwined with the push for a more equitable and realized justice system? How is the historic journey toward Black liberation tied to everyone’s experience with justice?
- What role have historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) played in uplifting and educating Black communities? What role do HBCUs play today?
- Why is it important to celebrate Black History Month and how can we use that knowledge beyond February?
- Who are historic Black figures that inspire me? Why?
- What ways do Black people use art as a means to communicate their experiences?
- If I consume Black art, Black music, or Black culture what is my responsibility in honoring, reading, and understanding the artists' experiences within the context of a historic push toward justice and liberation?
- Understanding that Black people come from hundreds of countries around the globe and live in all corners of the world, how do I ensure that I honor the diaspora through a continued learning about the diversity of culture and experience on the African continent and throughout the world?
- What is my awareness of the richness of Black history and culture beyond European and American enslavement and Ancient Egypt?
Black History Month Level Up Graphic
Free graphic to help you level up your Black History Month celebrations now and through the end of the year!
PSST... We encourage you to use this resource but we ask that you please site @MomOfAllCapes (Amber Coleman-Mortley) when you reshare. Part of equity and breaking cycles of injustice is citing people and honoring their work. This month, go out of your way to find Black scholars, thought-leaders, and creatives to elevate, bring in on consulting opportunities, and to assist with the important work of rebuilding our democratic spaces.
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