We’ve been asking what Black History Month means to you.
We received a variety of answers, and thought we’d highlight some of the responses.
Thank you to EVERYONE who filled out the form. We appreciate your openness and insight.
There’s still time to weigh in, by the way, if you’d like to answer the question for yourself: Tell us -- What does Black History Month mean to you? Did you talk about it, growing up? Did you attend events? We want to hear, in your words, about your experience. Take a minute, if you’re so inclined, to fill out the link.
The following responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.
“Black history becomes a reminder of what we developed throughout our lives. Black men and women invented a lot of items that we use today. To learn where we came from serves a purpose to inform, educate the masses and bring understanding to our young men and women that you are able to do anything you desire! I am glad that we are able to be reminded every day or year that you are great, and we are able to overcome, succeed, create and build young Black men and women to stand up and be excited for their lives! Martin, Malcolm, Rosa, Douglass, and many more defeated the limits and we are here today taking the baton to further the progress.”
-- James Cook; Jacksonville, Florida
“To recognize and honor those who paved the way for me. I would not have gotten to where I am today without standing on their shoulders. (It’s) not just national leaders and local leaders, but the trailblazers in my family who stood up and led the way for a person like me to succeed and have an opportunity in this life.”
-- Louis Williams, San Antonio
“Black History Months means so many things to me. I am using it to do research and set aside time to study and learn all I can about the many, many wonderful contributions that Black people have brought to us all. ... For the last three weeks, I have shared ‘Why I celebrate Black History Month’ on my Facebook page, because as a middle-aged white woman, I was not taught much about Black achievements, contributions and culture. The stories and facts I have learned have filled me with wonder, gratitude and awe.”
-- Debbie Yeagle; Orange Park, Florida
“Black History Month reminds me, and US, that Black people’s 400 years in America were/are more than just about slavery, segregation and fighting racism. Black History Month informs US that Black Americans have contributed immeasurably to this nation, in ways known and unknown. ... Black History Month, a mere slice of Black history, tells US that Black achievement, Black struggle and Black people are as American as the proverbial apple pie. Black history reminds everyone that WE ARE.”
-- John Perry; Fresno, Texas
“It means a life of new beginnings, when those like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and many other great Black role models paved the way for us to have a better life. Our family is very grateful to be a part of Black history, in a way. My father was the first Black graduate of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, back in 1967. Black History Month teaches and gives hope to the Black children and adults, letting them know they can do anything they set their minds to.”
-- JaJa Gilbert
“It’s a lifetime of honor and dedication -- a reflection of unification to be instilled and bestowed with the blessing of knowledge and empowerment within our brotherhood. A time of justice and peace along with equality through trials and tribulations to uphold the beliefs and origins, along with righteous writs (that) all mankind are equal and therefore must be treated as such from then and throughout all eternity.”
-- Cynteria Washington; Jacksonville, Florida
“I’m happy to learn more about the contributions to our society, but mad that I didn’t learn these same things when I was in school. The contributions of minorities must be added to schools’ regular curriculum.”
-- Bob Noonan; Spring, Texas
“Honestly, everything! It reminds me annually that we all still have a fighting chance, no matter the race or hardship. That’s the reason it’s called history. We’re all melting pots that have to be remolded at times, and the constant changes over the years have made Black history substantial. I remember being one of the only seven kids at a predominantly white elementary school, and how that month felt like the only time any of us were heard or listened to. ... I’m currently making Black history with a book specialized for children’s mental health.”
-- Takeria Bruce; Gainesville, Florida
“The month of February is for Blacks to feel achievements in all areas and to to be recognized from where we came from as slaves to now -- how we made it through education, careers and religiously. Through rough and hard times, we are still standing!”
-- Shirley Taylor; Tuscaloosa, Alabama
“Black History Month is a time which re-energizes my feelings and attitudes year-in and year-out, all day long. It has become a way of life. Reading and hearing about the struggles and successes of those who have gone before me … sustains me to continually work to make my life (and others’ lives) more productive. Today, when I read of those young folks making new, or unique inroads into fields never imagined possible -- undoubtedly, there is definitely a direct positive link AND no less than an indirect link to Black History Month.”
-- Al Christie; Parkland, Florida
“It’s a way to recognize how beautiful our Black culture is, and remember how our past helped shape our present.”
-- Carman Harris; Brentwood, California
“Black history is time of reflection of the past accomplishments and sacrifice that paved the way. It’s a culmination of the monumental achievements that were hidden. ... May this month of reflection encourage others to take the mantra in this time of pandemic. Allow us as a people to make even greater volumes of contributions to our society and community as a whole. May knowledge be increased of these milestones, as well as greater appreciation for the struggle inherited, let alone for the color of one’s skin rather than the content of the character that lies within. We salute the contributions, efforts and selfless service. We applaud their excellence and celebrate these legacies.”
-- Craig White; Jacksonville, Florida
“Shouting to the world, how amazing and courageous my people are! Mountain high and valley low!”
-- Stacy Easley; Houston
“Recognizing and honoring my ancestors and eternally thanking them for paving the way for me. The blood, sweat, tears and struggles (remind) me that I can do and conquer any issues at hand.”
-- Michelle Banks; Jacksonville, Florida
“There isn’t enough room to say, but recognizing the contributions of influential Black people to create equality and better living condition in a peaceful manner.”
-- Sherry Beckner; Vinton, Virginia
“As a teacher, school counselor, parent and grandparent, Black History Month is a time to celebrate and share the riches of our history. In February, students learn about the many trailblazers who made decisions in the past that have made an impact on the future -- which is now for this generation. We spend time learning songs from days gone by, which were taught to help set Blacks free, students learn about artists, poets, singers, dancers, authors and so many more. February is the month to reflect on (Black people’s) contributions to the world, and I am pleased that I am in a position to share Black history with my students.”
-- Leslie Campbell; Coral Springs, Florida
“It means that my 2- and 4-year-old grandchildren have a greater chance for success through equality.”
-- Rosa Lugo, San Antonio
“Black history means knowing my roots and how I got here. It means knowing the importance of the sacrifices that were made for me to have the opportunities I have now. It means reaching my highest potential to be the BEST I could be, and to pay it forward.”
-- Mary Wilson; Jacksonville, Florida
“For me, growing up, we did not talk about Black history, we talked about what people of my color achieved. People such as a neighbor who owned his first business, the Black man who got a job in the city government (bus driver, garbage man, etc.), the neighbor/church member who earned a college degree, the Black person who became a doctor, nurse or a teacher, the Black Panther, the teacher (Black or white) who took an interest in me or a neighborhood kid, Marion Anderson, Moses Fleetwood Walker, Claudette Colvin, and the preachers that peached hope, peace and faith. Then there were the larger-than-life Black people that were recognized by the American standard or learned in school. ... (As) an avid reader, I wanted to know more about the contributions of Blacks in my country. So, I spent a lot of time in the library looking up Black people who contributed to making America what it is. This research opened my eyes to a vast number of Blacks who made me proud. At this point in my life, I set a goal to educate my own children when I became a parent.”
-- Marcia Gordon-Hawkins; Spring, Texas
This story was first published in 2019. It has since been updated.