In 1915, historian Carter G. Woodson and the Reverend Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Nine years later, Woodson and Moorland led a successful petition calling for the second week in February to be devoted to celebrating the heritage and achievements of African Americans. In the 1960s, that weeklong celebration became a month-long one, and in 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month. In doing so, Ford called on the American public to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history." Ever since, February has been the month set aside in the national calendar to highlight the significant contribution of African Americans to the United States.
It has also been the month to learn about, celebrate, and incorporate elements of diversity often overlooked in the workplace. And perhaps the most important element of any company celebration, including and especially that of Black History Month, is the power of one.
Although group activities should be encouraged and can create cohesive learning experiences, it’s important not to forget the influence that each person has. It doesn’t matter whether you own the company or work for the company, being more tolerant of others and actively encouraging inclusion is something you can do right now—you don’t have to wait until a group activity is organized. And if this kind of attitude is encouraged throughout an entire group or company, the power of one will be amplified, making the workplace a more collaborative and exciting place to be.
Simple but effective ways individuals can celebrate Black History Month include sharing a relevant screensaver slideshow to be used on PCs or any cafeteria or reception screens; or displaying posters or magazine and newspaper articles of famous African Americans. One could also post on a shared space a timeline of significant historical events; photographs of significant African Americans such as Jackie Robinson or Billie Holiday, along with their major accomplishments; or a gallery of the most recent Black History Month Hero Nominees chronicling the significant contributions they have made to our lives.
Other heroes and heroines that could be spotlighted include Bessie Coleman, a pioneer of aviation, born in Texas in 1892, who set an example for all other aviators to follow; Elijah McCoy, the son of Kentucky slaves who went on to invent a labor saving self-oiling lubricator, the lawn sprinkler, and the folding ironing board; and Doris Miller, the mess crewman in the Navy during WWII whose story of bravery and valor was dramatized in the film Pearl Harbor.
Indeed, Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the great people who have helped grow a great nation. It’s also an opportunity for coworkers to become more unified in the workplace by celebrating the accomplishments of these great people.
Emma Street is an HR manager for a Fortune 500 company with over a decade of HR, management, and recruiting experience. In her spare time, she is a freelance writer for Free Resume Builder.