Each year to celebrate Black History Month, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) chooses a theme as a focal point of reflection and research during the 28-day observation.
This year the ASALH’s theme centers on the Black family, titled, “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.” The topic will remain embedded throughout ASALH’s programming all year, culminating in the yearly annual conference held in September.
Outside of Black History Month, the Black family remains a focal point in news headlines in the current social and political climate from the effects of racism to the ongoing coronavirus.
“While the role of the Black family has been described by some as a microcosm of the entire race, its complexity as the ‘foundation’ of African American life and history can be seen in numerous debates over how to represent its meaning and typicality from a historical perspective—as slave or free, as patriarchal or matriarchal/matrifocal, as single-headed or dual-headed household, as extended or nuclear, as fictive kin or blood lineage, as legal or common law, and as black or interracial, etc.,” the organization continued,” a statement from the organization reads.
The first theme,” Civilization: A World Achievement” was instituted in 1928 according to their website. Next year ASLAH will focus on “Black Health and Wellness,” which undoubtedly was spurred by COVID-19.
Throughout the month ASALH will hold virtual events, the majority are free and open to the public which include speakers and panelists. The first event on Feb. 1 will discuss the reason behind choosing the Black family as the central topic. The marquee event on Feb. 20 will include an appearance from famed historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. who will discuss the importance of launching into Black history with the exploration of family history and genealogy.
Originally named the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, the organization was launched in 1915 by founders Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland. Woodson is hailed as the founder of Black History Month which launched as “Negro History Week” in 1926, to celebrate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. 1976 marks the first year it was celebrated as a full month.