February is African American History Month in the US and Canada. The month, more famously known as Black History Month, is dedicated to remembering all the men, women and events involved in the African Diaspora. In the UK, it is celebrated in October.
It first started in the US as a week labeled 'Negro History Week' in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. They were hoping it would be a temporary week that would be terminated once black history became fundamental to American history. The first celebration of Black History Month took place in Kent State University in the US in February 1970 and then in 1976, the American Federal Government officially acknowledged to move it from a week to a month and thus its current status. Black History Month was first celebrated in the UK in 1987.
As one would expect, there is a lot of controversy surrounding this event one of which that it seems quite 'unfair' to have a month dedicated to a certain 'race'. Charles C.W. Cooke from "National Review Online' posted an article today with the title 'Against Black History Month'. It is a very interesting view and a very enjoyable and informative read. (click HERE to go to article).
I've always loved a good story and so I have chosen the two books below mainly for the beautiful writing and for their seriously good illustrations and of course for the poignancy of their characters in particular relation to Black History Month. So, in my opinion if to mark any occasion leads to reading a book or two, then it is an occasion to consider.
A final quick note: As someone who lives in the UK, I will post more on Black History Month and the events taking place in the UK to mark it just before October.
If A Bus Could Talk by Faith Ringgold
This is the true story of Rosa Parks who as a child had to walk for miles to get to school while white children got to ride there in a bus. It then tells how as an adult, Rosa rode the bus but could never sit in the same row with white people. This is the story of when one day Rosa Parks decided not to give up her seat for the white person and how that one single act of courage made history. It is by author Faith Ringgold.
Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine
A beautiful picture book about the true story of Henry 'Box' Brown, a slave who mails himself to the North. Henry doesn't know how old he is because they don't keep records of slaves' birthdays. All he has known in life is loss. Taken away from his family, he is enslaved to work in a warehouse where he grows up, gets married and has a family of his own who are one day sold at the slave market. Devastated and resolved, he knows the time has come for one thing only: to mail himself to the North. A decision that is to change everything. The book is written by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson.
For more information on Black History Month, click HERE