Black History Month - Join us in the Celebration!
COCISD presents a balanced, diverse curriculum throughout the school year with lessons on a variety of cultures and traditions. February's Black History Month offers us a special time to spotlight and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans to our great nation and to the world. Enjoy the profiles and resources below. Click the names in red to read the full article.
Origin of Black History Month
Black History Month began as the brainchild of Dr. Carter G. Woodson after he participated in the national celebration of the 50th anniversary of the emancipation of slaves. While there, he witnessed thousands of African Americans gathered to view exhibits showcasing the accomplishments and progress their people had made since the abolishment of slavery. Inspired by the overwhelming response, Woodson had the idea of creating an organization specifically for the scientific study of Black life and history. He and four others formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, or the ASALH) on Sept. 9, 1915. Eleven years later, Woodson announced "Negro History Week" in February of 1926.
Eager for the movement to gain ground, Woodson chose the month of February for Negro History Week because it coincided with celebrations already held in many African American communities to celebrate the births of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. His aim wasn't to only include it in the traditional celebrations, but to encourage these communities to use the opportunity to extend their study of Black history in general. His goal was to change the focus of the celebrations from just two men to the greater view of the multitudes of African American men and women who had impacted history and humanity. His ultimate intention was for the study and celebration of Black history to continue not just for a week, but throughout the year.
Beginning in the 1940s, African Americans in West Virginia began to celebrate February as Negro History Month. By the late 1960s, African American college students led the charge to replace the name "Negro History" with "Black History" and to extend it to a month-long event. In 1976, President Gerald Ford issued the first Black History Month proclamation. Since then, the celebration has grown to include similar observances in Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, and the Netherlands, though not always in February.
While this is a special time to celebrate, we must always remember Woodson's original intent. The study of Black History should not be relegated to one specific month, but should be taught and studied year-round. It teaches people about the African American experience beyond stereotypes. Learning more about Black History and the unique struggles faced by African Americans, both in the past and in the present, is the bridge to understanding. Understanding is the bridge to a better future.
"Black History is American history." Morgan Freeman - American Actor
Theme for 2023 - Black Resistance
Historically, African Americans have resisted oppression and injustice in a variety of ways, ranging from nonviolent movements and protests to mass migration, political advocacy, and violent insurrections against those who enslaved them, all in the quest for civil, social, and human rights. This year's Black History Month theme invites us to explore the stories, the heroes and heroines, the culture and events that have shaped our past, present, and future through Black Resistance.
Medical Pioneers and Heroes
Dr. Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler
In an era of both racial prejudice and extreme sexism, Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler stubbornly overcame every obstacle that stood in the way of her mission to relieve the suffering of sick children, women, the indigent and the underserved. Despite multiple hardships, the death of her first husband, and the disdain of much of the medical community, Crumpler became the first African American woman to earn a medical degree in the U.S. and wrote what many historians believe to be the first book on medicine ever published in the U.S. by an African American author, male or female.
Dr. James McCune Smith
Dr. James McCune Smith was not only the first African American to receive a medical degree, graduating with honors from the University of Glasgow, but he was also the first to own and operate a pharmacy in the U.S. and the first to publish in scientific journals abroad and in U.S. medical journals. Dr. Smith was an author, abolitionist, and early leader in the effort to dispel widely held misconceptions and fallacies as they pertained to both race and society. He was a great intellectual who wrote, spoke and stood for the complete abolition of slavery in America. He openly debunked faulty science that portrayed Black people as inferior, and was a pioneer in the cause of minority rights and the brotherhood of all men and women.
Profiles in History
Dr. Gladys Mae West
Dr. Gladys Mae West is a mathematician whose work with the U.S. military played an integral role in the development of GPS (Global Positioning System). She went to work for the U.S. military in 1956, where she was only the second African American woman to be hired there. Dr. West has been inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame, one of the Air Force Space Commands highest honors.
Charles Hamilton Houston
Known as “The Man Who Killed Jim Crow,” Charles Hamilton Houston was a ground-breaking attorney and law professor whose brilliant legal strategy ultimately resulted in the desegregation of American schools.
Bill “Bojangles” Robinson was a tap dancer and actor from 1878 through 1943, who was responsible for revolutionizing tap dancing and for bridging racial boundaries in the entertainment world of that time period. He was the best known and highest paid African-American entertainer in the first half of the 20th century.
Dr. Mae C. Jemison
Dr. Mae Carol Jemison is a medical doctor, engineer, astronaut, and author. As a crew member of the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s September 1992 mission, she was the first African-American woman to travel in space. She is also a dancer, actress and foreign language enthusiast.
explore and learn more
Association for the Study of African American Life and History - Origins of Black History Month
Center for Civic Education: 60-Second Civics - A daily podcast about our nation's government, the Constitution, and history.
Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy: Resources for Anti-racist and Anti-bias Teaching - Today, many educators are re-examining their everyday teaching practices to ensure that all learners are taught from an anti-racist/anti-bias perspective. In support of these efforts, the Barbara Bush Foundation has created and curated a collection of educational resources for classroom use.
PBS Article: 20 pertinent classroom resources for Black History Month
Houston Museum of African American Culture