How to honour and celebrate Black History Month

By Mercedes Lucero on February 1st, 2024
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There are so many ways to commemorate and celebrate Black History Month, which begins February 1st. As you consider the ways you’ll honour the past, learn more about the present and dream about the future with your loved ones, we have plenty of creative ideas, resources and tools to inspire you in February and beyond.

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Celebrate Black History Month MC

Dig into the rich Black histories of the past

Uncovering stories or discovering new angles on the stories you thought you knew can be an empowering and enlightening experience. Here are a few ways you can further your own journey into Black history.

  • Explore online archives. Start with the U.S. National Archives of African-American history, a digital hub of records, interviews, documents and more.
  • Trace your genealogy. Because of slavery, many African Canadians struggle to trace their genealogy before emancipation came. Even so, a combination of family oral histories, documents and records made more available by online ancestry sites and DNA tests have let some Black people go back further than was once thought possible, revealing a proud, resilient and diverse history covering hundreds of years. Trace your own family’s genealogy or find episodes of Finding Your Roots featuring Black celebrities.
  • Read firsthand accounts. While there is much more to Black history than slavery, there is much we can learn from this painful past, which chronicles stories of resistance, defiance, strength, ingenuity and transcendence. You could read the stories of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs or Robert Smalls, for instance. And you can read firsthand accounts of lesser known and unknown Black people who actually lived through slavery from projects like the Federal Writers’ Project.

Seek out inspirational Black voices of the present

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History is being made all around us, all the time. So remember that honouring Black History Month can also mean celebrating and championing contemporary Black voices. Here are just a few worth looking into:

  • Kimberlé Crenshaw is a foundational scholar of critical race theory and an American civil rights icon. Check out her podcast, Intersectionality Matters, where she covers everything from intersectionality to how Black history echoes in the present.
  • Isabel Wilkerson is the award-winning author of the critically acclaimed book The Warmth of Other Suns. She details the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North after World War I, which affected everything from civil rights to the makeup of American cities. Her latest book, Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents, is hailed as an “instant American classic.
  • Bryan Stevenson is the founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy. If you only have half an hour, be sure to watch his powerful and enlightening TED Talk “We Need to Talk About Injustice.
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates is an award-winning American journalist and author. You’re going to want to catch the film adaptation of his memoir Between the World and Me, now streaming on HBO.
  • Billy Porter is a Golden Globe-Nominated and Emmy Award-winning actor and singer. And there’s no shame in listening to his cover of “For What It’s Worth” on repeat.

Get curious about voices that may be new to you

No matter how much time we dedicate to learning from and celebrating Black experiences, there’s always more to uncover. Be proactive in discovering new stories and different experiences. Part of what it means to celebrate Black History Month is to keep this history alive and thriving.

Bring Black experiences to life with books

The children in our lives learn some of the most valuable lessons when they see themselves represented or are able to view another’s perspective. And at any age, books can open up conversations about Black experiences. Here are some current and older books by Black authors for all ages.

For reading with little ones

  • Daddy Calls Me Man by Angela Johnson
  • Lullaby (For a Black Mother) by Langston Hughes
  • Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
  • Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford
  • Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry

For Teens and Young Adults

  • All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
  • Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • Rebound by Kwame Alexander

For the Grownups

There’s a reading list for every interest out there somewhere. Here are a few we like:

Pick these books up at your local library or consider purchasing from a Black-owned bookstore.

Share your own personal, powerful stories

Without a doubt, the most powerful stories are the ones we share among our family and friends. Carve out dedicated time to share stories and experiences that bring Black history to life in a personal way. Use ongoing storytelling projects like StoryCorps to help inspire the kinds of questions you might ask.

Get hands-on this Black History Month with family-friendly craft ideas

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Making something new is especially appropriate for Black History Month. Foster imagination and inspiration with these family-friendly craft and art project ideas.

  • Create a timeline art project of prominent figures or events to add to throughout the year.
  • Draw portraits of important people throughout Black history who haven’t received a ton of global attention.
  • Invent something together after getting inspired by the many Black innovators, engineers and scientists whose inventions we use to this day.
  • Create a “Hope” box while listening to excerpts of Barack Obama’s “Audacity of Hope” and fill it with inspiring quotes and affirmations to be pulled out when needed most.
  • Design a freedom quilt with colourful paper or fabric and learn about the vital role they played in African-American history.

For even more ideas for kids, check out these educational projects from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Remember: There is more to African-American history than hardship

For too many, the first entry into Black history begins with American slavery. But slavery itself and the quest for Black freedom is a narrative rich with resiliency, hope and triumph. And beyond slavery are stories of Black invention, entrepreneurship, self-help, education-building, dream-making and success—all relevant themes worth championing during Black History Month and throughout the year.

Stream a powerful documentary that explores Black history

There are a ton of online lists dedicated to Black films. For a more in-depth exploration into the Black experience, here are several essential documentaries to stream.

  • Fans of Pose and Ru Paul’s Drag Race will dig the history and groundbreaking storytelling of Paris is Burning (1990). Directed by Jennie Livingston, this documentary follows the 1980s New York City ballroom scene, largely composed of Black and Latinx LGBTQ performers.
  • Rock and soul music lovers will want to catch 20 Feet from Stardom (2013), an award-winning documentary that spotlights the backup singers behind some of the most popular American music of the 20th century.
  • Book enthusiasts will be inspired by Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (2016), which uses the legendary poet’s own words to narrate an incredibly moving documentary about her life.

Even more ways to celebrate Black art & culture

Beyond books, movies and documentaries, there’s one thing we know for sure—Black arts and culture is dynamic and thriving. Here are even more ways to celebrate and explore unique aspects of Black culture.

  • Holidays: Dedicate time to learn more about important holidays within the Black community such as Juneteenth and Kwanzaa.
  • Fashion: Research the diversity and evolution of Black fashion, from African kente cloth to Black church attire to Afrofuturism.
  • Food: Learn more about soul food—then ask family members to show you their favourite family recipes.
  • Cultural movements: Dig into specific cultural shifts like the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s or the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

For even more resources, settle in with ongoing digital projects like Google’s Black History and Culture site. There you’ll find everything from Black comic book characters to everything you never knew about Motown history.


Get involved in your own community

The commitment toward justice and equality is woven throughout Black history. Honour this tradition by getting involved and improving the lives of those within your own community during Black History Month.

  • Start local by learning more about the Black history in your own area and within your own community.
  • Create space for family, friends and co-workers to have conversations around topics relevant to the Black community.
  • Surprise loved ones with gifts from Black-owned businesses and organizations.
  • Prioritize self-care and understand its vital role in the ongoing commitment toward liberation.

Go beyond your own borders

Today, Black History Month is celebrated around the world. As you discover your own ways to honour Black history, consider global histories that can add an international perspective to your own understanding of the Black experience.

By far the best way to celebrate and honour Black History Month is to use this time to cultivate your own ongoing curiosity and learning. Let what you learn and how you celebrate be the inspiration others need throughout the year. Because each time we study our past, we are better prepared to imagine the future we want to create.