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Black History Month: What's Theme of This Year's African American History Month?

2014 Marks 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

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Black History Month: What's Theme of This Year's African American History Month?

In 2013, Black History Month celebrates the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington at which Dr. King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. It also marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Black History Month: What's Theme of This Year's African American History Month?

Shirley Chisholm commemorative plaque in Fort Greene.

Photo by Ellen Freudenheim

Question: Black History Month: What's Theme of This Year's African American History Month?

Every year there's a different theme for February's celebration of African American History Month, also called Black History Month for short. What's this year's theme? And who sets the theme agenda? 2014 the theme is The Golden Jubilee of the Civil Rights Act.

The theme for Black History Month is announced annually by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) in Washington DC, which also offers "theme kits" for every African American History year.

About the Association for the Study of African American Life and History

  • The organization's stated goal "is to promote, research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community."
  • It is currently located temporarily on the campus of Howard University.
  • Established on September 9, 1915
  • Founded by Dr. Carter G. Woodson
  • The organization are the founders of Black History Month
  • Contact: http://www.asalh.org
  • Theme Kit information: http://www.asalh.org/themeproducts.html

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A WORD ABOUT BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2013

2013 marked a double agenda, focusing on two historic events, neatly separated by a century of struggle, conflict, and moments of both progress and regression.

The 2013 theme for African American History Month, celebrated in February, was At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington. This theme addresses a complex topic of huge importance.

  • 2013 marked the 50th and 150th year anniversaries, respectively, of two parallel events, occurring in 1863 and 1963.*
  • In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln's deeply controversial Emancipation Proclamation was enacted, freeing all slaves in the United States.
  • A full century later, 1963, marked a tipping-point in the civil rights movement: the March on Washington, an event that is remains in living memory of many older Americans today.
  • 2013 also marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech, which was delivered at the March on Washington.
  • 2013 also saw the inauguration of the second term of the Obama presidency, itself a historic event. See A Teachable Moment: Martin Luther King Day & Obama Inauguration Day Both January 21, 2013.
  • Finally, in keeping with the above but on a much lesser note, 2013 was also the year in which the  movie Lincoln created an unprecedented level of popular cultural discussion about the US Civil War, and the character of President Lincoln himself.
All in all, 2013 offered  a chance to savor the rich, broad menu of possibilities for study, memories and celebration of these extraordinary events, separately and in relation to one another.

 

See video by First Lady Michelle Obama

 

Variations on the Theme: Medgar Evers College Offers Elaborate Program

Of course, nothing's written in stone, and many organizations develop their own focus. For instance, there's always a remarkably rich, month-long series of programs for Black History Month at Brooklyn's Medgar Evers College, part of the CUNY system.

 

*(For a quick overview, you can access a good one-page document outlining the relationship between these two landmark civil rights events, spanning the 19th and 20th centuries, here .)

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