African American and Black History Month
What is African American and Black History Month?
African American and Black History Month is celebrated in February each year. It is a time to recognize, celebrate, and honor the rich and diverse history, important contributions, and achievements of Black and African Americans.
African American and Black History Month continues to be supported by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), its founding organization, who also designates its annual theme.
The 2023 Black History Month theme is Black Resistance, which the ASALH describes as “a call to everyone, inside and outside the academy, to study the history of Black Americans.”
How did African American and Black History Month come into being?
In 1915, Dr. Carter G. Woodson—historian, teacher, and author—founded ASALH. In February 1926, Woodson proposed the establishment of “Negro History Week” to honor the history of African Americans and their contributions to American life.
Dr. Woodson, known as the Father of Black History, chose the second week of February because it commemorates the birthdays of two men who greatly affected the African American community: Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14).
“Negro History Week” became “Black History Week” in the early 1970s. In 1976, the week-long observance was expanded to a month in honor of the nation’s bicentennial and has remained a month-long commemoration ever since.
What is LA County Library doing to celebrate African American and Black History Month?
We’re celebrating all February with in-person and virtual programs for all ages, and you’re invited!
On February 21 at Lancaster Library, you can learn about the Underground Railroad and make your own freedom quilt squares using simple sewing techniques. On February 22 at Live Oak Library, we’ll be Talking Drums with Ina, The Sunshine Storyteller, who will share afro-centric folktales and songs. On February 25 at Compton Library, learn about the rich legacy of African Americans in equine and western heritage and their influence on music, entertainment, and fashion with Randy Savvy, from The Compton Cowboys: A New Generation of Cowboys in America’s Urban Heartland. Also on February 25, we’ll have a virtual genealogy workshop on that will guide you in researching and honoring African American ancestry with professional genealogist and family historian, Charlotte Bocage.
Please see below for more details and registration info for these and other great LA County Library events and resources celebrating African American and Black History Month.
Heart and Hand Virtual Book Talk: The Legacy of Bruce’s Beach
Join us for a conversation about the legacy of Bruce’s Beach, and the role of community and media in spreading awareness about social justice issues. Library Director Skye Patrick will moderate an insightful conversation between Dr. Alison Rose Jefferson, historian and author of Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites During the Jim Crow Era and Dominique DiPrima, host of First Things First on KBLA TALK 1580. This program will also feature a special appearance from Fourth District Supervisor Janice Hahn, an instrumental leader in the County’s effort to return Bruce’s Beach to its descendants. For adults.
Tattooing the African Diaspora with James Spooner
While Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) are deeply connected to tattoo history, the industry is riddled with misinformation when it comes to dark skin. James Spooner, who specializes in tattooing richly pigmented skin, will dispel those myths, and advise on how to get a quality tattoo. He will also discuss African body modification traditions and their ties to current tattoo practices. For adults.
Juneteenth is a day of remembrance commemorating the end of slavery on June 19, 1865. Join us for a celebration of freedom with storyteller and educator, Binnie Tate Wilkin, who will engage us with Juneteenth history, stories, folktales, and personal reflections. For teens and adults.
Eyes on Snapshots
Our Black Resource Center and The Community Writers Group of Los Angeles, a multi-generational group of writers passionate about preserving African American history and culture through the writing of personal narratives, invite you to experience an afternoon of memoirs and personal portraits. For adults.
Virtual Author Talks
- Author Talk with Sadeqa Johnson: Award-Winning Author of Yellow Wife
February 28, 1 pm
- Southern Inspired: Author Talk with Celebrity Chef Jernard A. Wells
March 21, 1 pm
Past Author Talks
Celebrate African American and Black History Month with LA County Library. Food nourishes the body and helps tell people’s stories. Explore the rich culinary traditions of Black Americans through cookbooks and capture your own culinary story using the recipe card template. For adults.
Celebrate African American and Black History month by listening to tunes from this playlist highlighting Black jazz musicians.
From African American Cinema to documentaries on historical events, watch films on Kanopy curated specifically for African American & Black History Month.
Celebrate African American and Black History Month this February with fiction and nonfiction titles appropriate for all ages. Explore great books that focus on the Black and African American experience—everything from a reinvention of The Little Mermaid to an empowering story of African American women who formed their own suffrage associations.
Find more to read in our Black Resource Center Digital Reading Room in OverDrive.
Located in A C Bilbrew Library, the Black Resource Center was established as a special service of LA County Library in 1978 to serve the informational and educational needs of Black and African Americans and the larger population by supporting research and study on social, historical and cultural aspects unique to the Black and African American experience.
One of most indelible speeches of the Civil Rights Movement is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s eloquent speech I Have a Dream from the August 28, 1963, rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
Dr. King and other Black ministers formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957 to expand the struggle against racism and discrimination. By early 1963, Dr. King and the SCLC launched non-violent demonstrations to protest racial discrimination in Birmingham, Alabama, then one of the most segregated cities in the United States. In reaction to the violent police actions, President John F. Kennedy proposed a wide-ranging civil rights legislation to Congress.
Dr. King, along with other civil rights leaders, then organized a massive march on Washington, DC, to urge Congress to pass Kennedy’s bill. On August 28, 1963, nearly a quarter of a million people gathered at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to hear King and others. The highlight of the rally was Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech, which has since defined the civil rights movement, not only for African Americans, but for all people.
The civil rights movement won a significant victory in 1964 when Congress passed The Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination in public places and promoting equal opportunities in education and employment. Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and is remembered today for his vision and his legacy.
For More Information
I Have a Dream Speech
Provides the text and audio of the speech delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.
The King Center
Dedicated to the preservation and advancement of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work, the King Center offers a wide range of information biographical information on Dr. King and Coretta Scott King, the King Holiday, and other historical information.
The Seattle Times: Martin Luther King, Jr.
Contains stories and photos from The Seattle Times as wells as time lines for Martin Luther King, Jr. and for the Civil Rights movement. Click on His Words to hear excerpts from King’s most famous speeches, including two excerpts from I Have a Dream and one from the speech Dr. King gave the day before he was assassinated in 1968.
Stanford University: The King Papers Project
The project is a major research effort to assemble and disseminate information about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the social movements he worked for. The Frequently Requested Documents include the I Have a Dream speech, which can be viewed in multiple languages by clicking on the flag icons. The site also includes biographical information, King’s sermons, and other material.
Often referred to as the Negro National Anthem, this song was written by James Weldon Johnson and his brother J. Rosamond Johnson in 1900 for the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. It was originally performed by children at its premiere in Jacksonville, Florida. James W. Johnson was a notable poet who later went on to become one of the founders of the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Rosamond Johnson was a successful composer of music for Broadway.
Lift ev’ry voice and sing, Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast’ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.