Social media takes Black History Month beyond the classroom

Historians in the News
tags: Black History Month, Black History



Stacia L. Brown is a writer, mother, and part-time hippie.

... I don’t anticipate future generations of students being at a similar loss for how to celebrate black history. They have one thing I didn’t: social media. The Internet now provides  a cornucopia of little-known or under-reported black history on a daily basis, with viral sharing making stories that children of the mid-20th century would’ve had to struggle to find accessible to young people within minutes now.

Projects like Because of Them We Can and We Are Black History, which transform popular Web writers, editors, activists and influencers into famed figures from the past who worked in similar fields, and scores of amateur Facebook and Tumblr pages focus on viral reach, their image-heavy presentations encouraging young people to investigate further for themselves. I encounter shared posts from those whenever I log into either platform and do, in fact, continue to the work of independent investigation. It’s how I learned about civil rights activist Diane NashVertus Hardiman, who suffered five years of undisclosed medical experimentation as a child, and went on to live for 80 years with a radiation hole in his head; LGBTQ activists Marsha P. Johnson and Storme DeLarverie; and countless other change-makers of color.

History is more accessible than it’s ever been thanks to user-submitted online resources. Traditional institutions that have long recorded black news and history are making their vast archives available online. The Afro American Newspapers have over half of their archives, dating back to the early 1900s online. “Twitterstorians” like Matthew Delmont are presenting projects that research and share vintage journalism related to civil rights and the early, post-slavery lives of black Americans. And even children’s networks such as PBS’s Sprout are offering unique, engaging, intergenerational black history content both on air and online. (Did you know Lena Richards was the first black woman to have her own cooking show? I wouldn’t have, either, without having glimpsed one of Sprout’s clips while my 5-year-old was watching cartoons.)

Black History Month should absolutely still be observed during the month of February; it encourages those who aren’t already inclined to seek out and celebrate black history and achievements to do so. But now that it’s easier than ever to access history, without the intervention of teachers or without a trip to a physical library — it’s easier to integrate black history into all of our discussions of the past, no matter when they occur.




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