We’re already nearing the end of Black History Month! That makes it the perfect moment to answer any questions you may have about this national observance. So, if you’re wondering why we observe Black History Month, what is the theme of Black History Month in 2022, or the different resources and organizations to learn more about Black Canadian history, then we’ve got you covered. In fact, we’ll even be sharing a few interesting “did you knows” along the way, so keep your eyes peeled and hearts open to learn all about Black History Month and beyond!
#1: Black History Month 2022 Theme
The theme for Black History Month in 2022 is ‘February and Forever: Celebrating Black History Month Today and Every Day’. The theme is centred around raising awareness about Black history. It also is aimed at creating recognition about the contributions made every single day by Black Canadians to our great country. One of the key reasons for selecting this theme is so that Black Canadians can be honoured throughout the year. It’s important to have their rich heritage celebrated on an ongoing basis instead of limiting events and festivities to just one month.
#2: February is Black History Month in Canada …but not all over the world
In Canada, we observe Black History Month in February. The US also observes Black History Month in February. In fact, there’s a specific reason Black History Month is celebrated in February, but more on that later! What’s really interesting is that while both Canada and the United States celebrate Black History Month in February, it is not the case across the world. Did you know that in the United Kingdom, Black History Month is observed in October? There is no standard month designated as Black History Month on an international level. Instead, each country may decide when they would like to observe Black History Month.
#3: Black History Month has a history that dates back all the way to 1926
Black History Month — or more truthfully, a period to celebrate the contributions of the Black community — was first observed in North America in the United States in 1926. It was initially proposed in a press release by the African-American and Harvard-educated historian Carter G. Woodson, who is also known as the ‘Father of Black History’. He suggested that there should be a period set aside ‘devoted to honour the accomplishments of African Americans and to heighten awareness of Black history in the United States'. It wasn’t too long afterwards, that the idea caught on in Canada as well, leading to the very first celebrations of Black History Month here.
#4: Black History Month started off as Black History Week
Even before there was a Black History Month, there was a Black History Week. It’s important to note that at the time, it was known as Negro History Week. It was only in the early 1970s that the name ‘Negro History Week’ was changed to Black History Week. In 1976, Black History Week was extended to last a whole month, officially converting Black History Week to Black History Month. Since then, every US president has designated February as Black History Month. In the same vein, February has been observed as Black History Month in Canada as well.
#5: February was chosen as Black History Month because of two important birthdays
Of course February is Black History Month, but do you know why this particular month was chosen to ‘honour the accomplishments of African Americans and to heighten awareness of Black history’? It’s because two very important people were born in February! Who are they? None other than former United States President Abraham Lincoln and social activist Frederick Douglas. As you probably know, both played key roles in abolishing slavery. In fact, Frederick Douglas even escaped slavery himself. No telling of Black History can ever be complete without referencing the inhuman practice of slavery. So, it’s only right that Black History Month also commemorates the births of two great men who put an end to slavery in their own ways.
#6: Black History Month was officially recognized in Canada in 1995, and then again in 2008
As we’ve already covered above, we have been celebrating Black History Month in Canada since at least the 1970s. However, it was only in December of 1995 that the Canadian House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month. The motion for the official recognition of February as Black History Month was introduced by the Honourable Jean Augustine. She was the very first African-Canadian woman elected to Parliament. Of course, it comes as no surprise that the motion was carried unanimously by the House of Commons.
In addition to the motion introduced by the Honourable Jean Augustine, a further motion cementing February as Black History Month in Canada was introduced in 2008 by Senator Donald Oliver. He was the very first Black man appointed to the Senate and introduced the Motion to Recognize Contributions of Black Canadians and February as Black History Month. With Canada’s strong leaning towards honouring the legacy of Black Canadians, it will come as no surprise that the motion was met with unanimous approval. Thus, on March 4, 2008, Canada adopted the Motion to Recognize Contributions of Black Canadians and February as Black History Month. History was made and today we celebrate February as Black History Month. With global movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, the public participation in observing Black History Month only continues to increase.
#7: People of African and Caribbean descent first arrived in Canada almost 400 years ago
The very first Black man to step foot on Canadian land was Mathieu Da Costa. He arrived in 1604, along with French explorers and played the role of a multilingual interpreter who spoke five different languages. These included English, Dutch, Pidgin Basque, Portuguese, and French. Since then, many Black communities have either been brought to Canada or immigrated from all around the world, especially the United States. Four centuries later, it is our privilege to be able to look back on their rich heritage and honour their legacy during Black History Month (and, as the theme for 2022 encourages - every single day!)
#8: By 2036, more than 5% of Canada’s population will comprise of Black citizens
Now you know a little about the history of Black communities and the history of Black History Month itself, but what about the future? Along with the growing participation in Black History Month, the Black population in Canada has also seen a steady incline. In just 20 years — between 1996 and 2016 — the Black population has doubled in size. In 2022, the Black population makes up 3.5% of Canada’s total population. What’s more, in the next fourteen years, this number is slated to increase to between 5% to 5.6%. These statistics may seem like mere numbers, but they indicate a heart-warming reality. A growing population means that more and more Black Canadians can access higher standards of living and enjoy better health than before. It also means that the diversity in our country continues to increase - a great cause for celebration indeed.
#9: There are so many amazing resources where you can learn more about Black history
One of the key reasons we observe Black History Month in Canada is to encourage everyone to learn more about Black history. So, of course we’re sharing some great resources where you can do just that! One of these is the Black History Canada Portal, where you can learn about the history of Canada’s Black communities online. You can even check out Ontario Black History Online, or learn about British Columbia’s Black Pioneers. If you’d rather watch video content than immerse yourself in reading, then you may enjoy learning about Black History by watching Underground Railroad, part of the Heritage Minutes series by Historica Canada Foundation, or even the short film Remember Africville by the National Film Board of Canada.
Of course, these are just a few great resources, you can find many more all over the internet and even in your local community! Seek, and you will find.
#10: You can learn about Black history and support Black communities in the present at the same time
If you’d like to not only learn about the Black history but also support Black Canadian communities in the present, there are plenty of organizations you can explore. These include The Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum Inc. (SACHM), the Amherst Freedom Museum (formerly known as the Black Museum), British Columbia Black History Awareness Society (BCBHAS), New Brunswick Black History Society, Black History Ottawa, and Ontario Black History Society. Again, these are only a few of the many organizations documenting, preserving, and spreading awareness about Black history. A simple online search will be able to help you discover more organizations that you can support and learn from within your own province or community.
We hope you have been able to learn a bit about Black history and Black History Month. At Innovation, we have always been committed to diversity and inclusion. So, Black History Month is a special chance for us to learn more about the heritage of our Black Canadian members and celebrate their lives and achievements.