16 Black History Month Activities to Do Year-Round
Here are just some of the things to do, read and see to immerse yourself in the rich history of Black culture
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Black History Month activities to participate in
People do numerous things to celebrate Black History Month, from sharing Black History Month quotes and literature to researching Black history figures who contributed incredible things to humankind. Resources like this walk through centuries of Black history—and are just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, there are plenty of Black History Month activities to do that are available all year, meaning you can participate in them after February’s over too. Take a look at these activities and resources for celebrating Black History month not just in February, but all year long.
Support a Black-owned business
Supporting a Black-owned business is a great way to directly, financially support the Black community in your area. Plus, you can find a new favorite restaurant or spot to shop! If you’re a bookworm, you can check out Black-owned bookstores and pick up some page-turning books by Black authors.
Visit the National Museum of African American History & Culture
If you have a bucket list for every state in the United States, add a visit to this museum in Washington, D.C. As part of the Smithsonian, it’s filled with collections and exhibits that will move and inspire you, including art and artifacts that span our nation’s history. The museum directors believe that this museum is for all Americans to better understand our nation’s history through the African American lens. Add this to your list of Black History Month activities.
Read Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
You may have been assigned Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous letter in your high school English class. There’s no better time to read it again. The letter is considered a key document in the Civil Rights Movement, but it’s also a great work of literature. In the letter, written in 1963, Dr. King argues movingly for nonviolent resistance to racism. His letter is all the more powerful because it’s written from a jail cell—King had been arrested during a peaceful protest against segregation. These inspirational quotes from Dr. King will restore your faith in humanity.
Watch Hidden Figures
This beloved movie (based on a New York Times bestseller) follows the stories of three Black women scientists working at NASA during the Civil Rights era. You’ll see their amazing contributions from within a culture of discrimination and inequality. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe shine as the science and math whizzes who play key roles in America’s space race. Already saw this 2016 flick? Then watch one of these documentaries about race that everyone should see.
Read Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad
Whitehead’s riveting, can’t-put-it-down novel won the National Book Award, the Man Booker Prize and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It’s just that good. Whitehead sets his story during the 1800s in the American South. Everything is just how you’d expect, only skewed weird and slightly different. The story follows an escaped slave on her terrifying journey north. The “underground railroad” she traverses is a literal series of below-ground trains. This is a searing and chilling must-read portrait of American history. Here are more essential books for understanding race relations in America.
Watch Loving, an acclaimed drama about the landmark Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia. Interracial marriage was still illegal in some states until 1967. The movie follows real-life couple Richard and Mildred Loving, who were sentenced to a year in jail for marrying. Ruth Negga was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her performance. Joel Edgerton plays her devoted husband in this inspiring love story set within profound injustice.
Read Ron Wimberly’s Black History in Its Own Words
This awesome art book features pop art and comic-style portraits of Black artists and activists, like Angela Davis, Ice Cube, Shirley Chisholm, bell hooks and others. The book features a series of portraits with a noteworthy quote chosen for each selected Black artist or luminary. The Jimi Hendrix page, like all of them, captures his own words: “There’s a whole lot of changes happening, but now it’s time for all these changes to connect.” Wimberly’s style captures the wisdom, strength and genius of Black icons and leaders across history. Don’t forget to read up on notable Black inventors who made great contributions to everyday life.
Watch I Am Not Your Negro
Raoul Peck’s acclaimed documentary is an absolute must-see. It’s based on one of writer James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscripts, but it shines a light on the racism throughout America’s history. Baldwin lived and wrote during the Civil Rights era, and the film explores his experience with friends and allies such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. Samuel L. Jackson narrates this powerful portrait of Baldwin’s towering intellect and the time in which he lived and wrote. It’s an essential history lesson with a huge impact. You can’t see it and remain unmoved. Read about these small ways you can fight racism every day.
Read Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God
Published in 1937, Hurston’s novel is a masterwork of American literature and the Harlem Renaissance. It follows heroine Janie Crawford’s harrowing love life but transcends simple melodrama and heartache. Janie’s journey shows the strength and dignity in Black women’s experience. Hurston writes with originality and lyricism in language that demonstrates extreme artistry that wasn’t recognized during her lifetime. So give it a go now—you won’t be sorry. Afterward, read up on why Black History Month should last all year.
Visit the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum
This Baltimore museum aims to educate and motivate by focusing on great leaders in African American history. You’ll see exhibitions spanning Black history, from roots in Africa to the Harlem Renaissance to Civil Rights to Inventors and Modern Leaders and everything in between, perfect for the whole family or school-age groups. You’ll see life-size wax figures of Harriet Tubman, Billie Holiday and many other historical figures who bring history to life in an environment that inspires. These are the “facts” about the Civil Rights Movement that actually aren’t true.
Get to know Misty Copeland
Misty Copeland is the first African American principal ballerina in the American Ballet Theatre. Copeland was discovered as a child prodigy and was dancing professionally within one year of her first ballet lesson. Check out her website to see images and video of her remarkable talent. You’ll find yourself awestruck, inspired and absolutely enamored with ballet as an art form. There’s a PBS documentary about Copeland you can check out, and you can also read this powerful piece about what Copeland’s mother taught her about being Black in America.
Visit the Motown Museum
“Motown Sound” transformed the music scene in America during the 1960s with such artists as Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops and the Supremes. Motown also launched the careers of the Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder, infusing rock ‘n’ roll with black music culture and the styles of jazz and gospel. If you visit the interactive museum in Detroit, you can sing along in Studio A and see exhibits and memorabilia that celebrate and honor Motown influence and history. Don’t miss these history lessons your teacher probably got wrong.
Read The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Michelle Alexander’s acclaimed bestseller examines the ways discrimination persists in new forms in our contemporary time. We may think we live in an age of colorblindness, but this important book explains how the criminal justice system perpetuates institutionalized racism. Alexander is a legal scholar and civil rights advocate who persuasively sheds light on aspects of racism that need examination and reform. Speaking of, here’s why you should stop saying “I don’t see color.”
Listen to a podcast
Podcasts are all the rage—and they’re educating people on a huge variety of subjects. There’s no shortage of podcasts about the Black experience, the lesser-known history of racism in America and racial disparities. Educating yourself is a critical part of becoming anti-racist, so grab your earbuds and start learning. We recommend podcasts like “1619,” “Code Switch,” “The Diversity Gap” and these other podcasts about race you need to hear. Listening to these podcasts is one of the Black History Month activities you can participate in whether you’re at home or on the go.
Read poetry by Amanda Gorman
It was hard to miss the enthralling recitation by poet Amanda Gorman, who read her original poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2021, becoming the youngest inaugural poet at age 22. Her words continue to resonate today. Learn more about Gorman and read more of her powerful words.
Take a tour of the National Civil Rights Museum
Take a tour of the National Civil Rights Museum, located at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The museum’s website also has scores of videos and educational resources for Martin Luther King Day, historical anniversaries and more. The museum is also hosting a series of Black History Month webinars you can join online. Next, read up on what anti-racism means and what it means to be anti-racist.