From classrooms to community centers, Black History Month organizers plan to shine a spotlight throughout February on Black health and wellness.
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Since its beginning, organizers of Black History Month have embraced themes to raise awareness of a particular subject or issue. In 2021, the Black family took center stage; the year before, Black Americans and the vote. This year's observance revolves around Black health and wellness.

The Black History Month themes are chosen by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the organization founded by Carter G. Woodson. In 1926, the noted scholar helped establish Negro History Week; it would later expand to the whole month of February.

Girl at doctor's appointment using an asthma inhaler
Credit: FatCamera / Getty Images

Woodson "realized the importance of providing a theme to focus the attention of the public. The intention has never been to dictate or limit the exploration of the Black experience but to bring to the public's attention important developments that merit emphasis," according to the organization.

In his 1933 book, <em>The Mis-Education of the Negro</em>, Woodson wrote that Black achievements were "overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them."

That, in turn, fed racial prejudice, and the false belief that "the Negro has never contributed anything to the progress of mankind," he would later write.

 In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month and encouraged Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."

2022 Black History Month Theme

The 2022 focal point—Black health and wellness—resonates for many, given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the racial disparities in health care that were illuminated. Lectures and activities will highlight what's being done, and what needs to be done, to foster good health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally, in the Black community.

But events won't concentrate solely on today.

Observances during the month will honor Black health pioneers in Western medicine—such as Daniel Hale Williams, a renowned cardiologist who performed the world's first successful heart surgery in 1893, and Rebecca Lee Crumpler, who in 1864 became the first Black woman in the U.S. to receive a medical degree.

In addition, ASALH is encouraging communities to recognize the doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, and others who have worked to improve the health and lives of Black Americans.

2022 Black History Month Activities

Across the nation, wide-ranging events include panel discussions on health care disparities, health screenings, lectures on Black pioneers, art shows, children's storytime hours, and yoga and meditation sessions.

All month long, ASALH will host a virtual festival, which includes a moderated conversation on February 19 with the leaders of Black medical schools and professional organizations. 

The African American History and Culture Museum in Washington, D.C., has scheduled virtual activities, including webcasts aimed at children 4 and older. 

Past Black History Month Themes

It's possible to glean insight into key social issues of the day just by examining the themes of past years. Among them:

  • African Americans in Times of War (2018)
  • The History of Black Economic Empowerment (2010)
  • America for All Americans (1976)
  • Freedom From Racial Myths and Stereotypes Through Negro History (1966)
  • A Foundation for Integration (1954)
  • The Negro in Democracy (1942)
  • The Possibility of Putting Negro History in the Curriculum (1929)

"The themes reflect changes in how people of African descent in the United States have viewed themselves, the influence of social movements on racial ideologies, and the aspirations of the black community," the ASALH says.

Future Black History Month Themes

ASALH already has chosen next year's Black History Month theme, and it, too, reflects our time: Anti-Black Violence and Resistance in the Diaspora.

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