Black History Month
The theme for this year’s celebration is Black Resistance
By Byron Toben
February 6, 2023
In 1619, the first recorded shipment of black slaves to North America took place. Kidnapped from Africa, the numbers grew, including South America, the Caribbean and yes, the pre-Canada Dominions.
In 1807, the trade in slavery, but not existing slavery, was abolished in the British Empire. In 1834, slavery itself was abolished in the British Empire.
In 1863, slavery was abolished in the United States, where it had persisted as a “necessary evil,” by Lincoln’s emancipation declaration.
In 1915, Carter G. Woodson set up the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH), becoming the “Father of Black History.” He declared, “If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”
In 1926, Woodson inaugurated Black History Week. It gradually evolved into Black History Month on some college campuses. Kent State led the way in 1970.
In 1976, as part of the American Bicentennial, President Gerald Ford recognized February as Black History Month. This long and arduous journey was opposed by the usual suspects of mostly Southern U.S. states that still limit “critical race theory,” and still institute “Jim Crow”-like voter suppression measures.
In 1987, the United Kingdom adopted its Black History Month (albeit in October there).
In 1990, the German city of Berlin observed it and this has since spread to other German cities.
In 1995, the Canadian parliament adopted February as Black History Month.
In 2010, the Irish city of Cork initiated Black History Month.
In 2018, the French city of Bordeaux organized the month, since spread to Paris and four other cities.
In 2022, the month was dedicated to Josephine Baker, a dancer and member of the French resistance during WW II.
In 2020, seven African countries celebrated it, adopting March as the month.
February had been chosen as Black History Month since it was the birth month of both President Abraham Lincoln (the 12th) and orator/activist Frederick Douglass (the 14th).
Black History Month is unique in that it has a different theme each year. For 2023, its theme is Black Resistance.
The cities of Montreal, Westmount, La Salle and others have announced specific related events during the month
Feature image: Statue “The Celebration”, a tribute to three black pioneers and football icons who battled discrimination: Cyrille Regis, Brendon Batson and Laurie Cunningham, by Paulina Milde-Jachowska, Unsplash
Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.