Black History Month
February 1, 2024 | Evident Change
Black History Month, celebrated every February, has roots stretching back more than a century. In 1915, Harvard historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded an organization called the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which would launch Negro History Week. Thus began the practice of highlighting the countless contributions of Black Americans to the United States that would later evolve into Black History Month. The month was officially recognized in 1976 by President Gerald Ford, which served as an acknowledgment that Black American accomplishments and contributions are too often left out of every aspect of our history in the United States.
As we mark the beginning of Black History Month, let us remember that Black history is US history.
AFRICAN AMERICANS AND THE ARTS: 2024 BLACK HISTORY MONTH THEME
Black History Month has a different theme every year. The theme for 2024 is African Americans and the Arts, which recognizes the significant impact of Black culture on the world, particularly in the United States. African Americans have made remarkable contributions to the performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary arts, and other forms of art, setting trends and shaping culture worldwide. Although Western intellectuals have often stolen the work of artists of African descent or denied them credit for it, African American artists have continued to rise against oppression and make significant impacts in the arts. These artistic achievements are a testament to the resilience of enslaved Africans, carrying forward a blend of their African, Caribbean, and American experiences. African Americans use art to express themselves, amplify their voices, preserve their history, and advocate for their communities. We are proud to celebrate the artists, musicians, and writers of African descent who continue to tell a story of freedom, hope, and empowerment while fighting to create a fair and just system for all.
A CALL FOR ACTION
Black artists are rich contributors to US culture. Providing opportunities to pause, learn, and give recognition to the contributions of Black artists, as designated by this year’s Black History Month theme, brings visibility to the inequities within the arts in the US and thus an opportunity for action and change.
Black artists have historically faced discrimination and continue to. In addition to experiencing pay inequality, they have been denied pensions, royalties, recognition, and credit for their talent and creations.
Moving toward more equitable systems that ensure non-appropriation, fair compensation, and recognition is critical for the arts industry and for US society.
While representation has increased in some spaces, Black artists still face unequal treatment compared to their White counterparts when it comes to project budgets, compensation, and contracts. In order to create a just and fair society, it is vital that individuals become aware of the various types of inequities and work to address them.
Evident Change began labor acknowledgment practices in 2022 as an extension of land acknowledgments. Labor acknowledgments are statements that describe how this country has significantly benefited economically from the unpaid labor and contributions of Black enslaved people. This practice asks individuals to recognize the Black community’s historical impacts in the United States. It also asks folks to pay attention to and disrupt the policies and practices that continue to call for Black people to share—without compensation—their knowledge, talent, and skills, often at their own emotional expense.
- Visit the California State University, Northridge Black History Month Virtual Book Display for a list of suggested reading for the month
- Read Solid Ground’s example of an organizational labor acknowledgment
- Read Black History Milestones: Timeline
- Read Hollywood Diversity Report 2020: A Tale of Two Hollywoods