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Celebrating Black History Month

By: France-Elvie Banda
Monday, February 13, 2023
It has been more than 400 years since the first 20 enslaved Africans were brought to Virginia in 1619.  For centuries thereafter, Black Americans have fought for freedom and the ability to self-determination.

Carter G. Woodson, author and journalist, and minister Jesse E. Moorland’s act of resistance in establishing the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History culminated in what we celebrate every year in February as Black History Month. This annual celebration allows us to honor the integral contributions Black Americans have made in shaping the U.S. and pushing the nation toward equality. This year’s Black History Month theme is “Black Resistance.” 

Black Resistance in the Scientific Community
Despite graduating from Harvard Medical School, William Hinton, PhD, a bacteriologist who originally wanted to become a surgeon, was denied entry to medical internships from Boston hospitals because he was Black. Hinton’s commitment to scientific research led him to an alternate route in pathology labs and he later developed a diagnostic test for syphilis infection, known as the Hinton Test. Hinton went on to become the first Black professor at Harvard and established a women’s only laboratory technician school. 

Yet, the fight continues for many Black scientists and researchers today, who still struggle to advance their careers amidst institutional discrimination. Organizations like #BlackInNeuro and #BlackInMicro continue the work of highlighting Black resistance by creating community support and amplifying the contributions of Black scientists. 

How You Can Celebrate Black History Month
In honor of this year’s Black History Month theme of resistance, the Library of Congress (LBC) curated a display that explores Black Americans’ historic and contemporary resistance against white supremacy.  The curation includes items from the LBC’s Rare Book and Special Collections, Manuscript, and Prints and Photographs Divisions. 

The National Museum of African American History and Culture's (NMAAHC) celebration of Black History Month, notes that through resistance Black Americans continue to mobilize resources and shape social movements to create a space for them to thrive. NMAAHC honors Black resistance through the searchable museum, Making a Way Out of No Way, highlighting the various avenues of Black resistance like education, religious institutions, businesses, the press, and organizations. Despite centuries of targeted racial oppression limiting Black Americans’ quality of life and social mobility, a legacy of community support has allowed Black Americans to create pockets of socioeconomic and political change. 

Visit the NMAAHC to learn more about Black resistance throughout American history and find ways to celebrate Black History Month through various events and programs.