The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH), founded by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, sets the theme each year for Black History Month. The 2022 theme is “Celebrating Black Joy: Embracing Health and Vitality.” In his presidential address, Dr. W. Marvin Dulaney, current ASAALH president, noted the importance of this year’s theme. “Our nation has suffered through two years of a worldwide pandemic called the coronavirus or COVID-19. Almost one million Americans have died during the pandemic,…African Americans have suffered disproportionately from COVID-19 more than any other group of Americans.”
This year’s theme is also meant to address “the history of healthcare in the African American community” and a “historical examination of the financial and economic health and wellness of African Americans.” African American History Month is not just about how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. It is also about reimagining the steps we take to get there. For some of us, it will mean taking an inventory of our health and making the necessary appointments. For others, it will be taking a few moments out of our day to prioritize self-care. Candice Marie Benbow of the Grio writes that she is “excited about the conversations we’ll have this month—where the past is prologue, the present is ripe with possibilities, and the future is what we shape for ourselves.” (portions of this article were excerpted from www.thegrio.com).
In 1926, Carter G. Woodson instituted the first week-long celebration to raise awareness of contributions by African Americans to history. Fifty years later, the week became African American History Month. The month of February was chosen because it celebrates the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, both of whom dramatically affected the lives of African Americans. Frederick Douglass, born February 14,1818, was 21 when he escaped slavery. He went on to campaign for abolition of slavery, establish a newspaper—The North Star, and hold the office of Minister to Haiti. He was a major voice in the anti-slavery/civil rights movement. Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States, was born February 12, 1809. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring that all slaves within the Confederacy would be free.