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Black History Month

2023 Theme: African Americans and the Arts

African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings since our arrival upon these shores. These efforts have been to advocate for a dignified self-determined life in a just democratic society in the United States and beyond the United States political jurisdiction. The 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s in the United States was defined by actions such as sit-ins, boycotts, walk outs, strikes by Black people and white allies in the fight for justice against discrimination in all sectors of society from employment to education to housing. Black people have had to consistently push the United States to live up to its ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice for all. Systematic oppression has sought to negate much of the dreams of our griots, like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, and our freedom fighters, like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Septima Clark, and Fannie Lou Hamer fought to realize. Black people have sought ways to nurture and protect Black lives, and for autonomy of their physical and intellectual bodies through armed resistance, voluntary emigration, nonviolence, education, literature, sports, media, and legislation/politics.

From the Association for the Study of African American Life and History

2022 Theme: Black Health and Wellness

From the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the theme for 2022 focuses on the importance of Black Health and Wellness. This theme acknowledges the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birthworkers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora. The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well.

2021 Theme: The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity

The black family has been a topic of study in many disciplines—history, literature, the visual arts and film studies, sociology, anthropology, and social policy.  Its representation, identity, and diversity have been reverenced, stereotyped, and vilified from the days of slavery to our own time. The black family knows no single location, since family reunions and genetic-ancestry searches testify to the spread of family members across states, nations, and continents. Not only are individual black families diasporic, but Africa and the diaspora itself have been long portrayed as the black family at large. 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. Variation appears, as well, in discussions on the nature and impact of parenting, childhood, marriage, gender norms, sexuality, and incarceration. The family offers a rich tapestry of images for exploring the African American past and present. Read more at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

2020 Theme: African Americans and the Vote

The year 2020 marks the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment and the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement.  The year 2020 also marks the sesquicentennial of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) and the right of black men to the ballot after the Civil War.  The theme speaks, therefore, to the ongoing struggle on the part of both black men and black women for the right to vote.

2019 Theme: Black Migrations

Black Migrations emphasizes the movement of people of African descent to new destinations and, subsequently, to new social realities. While inclusive of earlier centuries, this theme focuses especially on the twentieth century through today. 

2018 Theme: African Americans in Times of War

The 2018 theme, “African Americans in Times of War,” commemorates the centennial of the end of the First World War in 1918, and explores the complex meanings and implications of this international struggle and its aftermath. The First World War was initially termed by many as “The Great War,” “The War to End All Wars,” and the war “to make the world safe for democracy.” 


2017 Theme: The Crisis in Black Education

The theme for 2017 focuses on the crucial role of education in the history of African Americans.  ASALH’s founder Carter G. Woodson once wrote that “if you teach the Negro that he has accomplished as much good as any other race he will aspire to equality and justice without regard to race.” Woodson understood well the implications associated with the denial of access to knowledge, and he called attention to the crisis that resulted from persistently imposed racial barriers to equal education. 


2016 Theme: Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories

The history of African Americans unfolds across the canvas of America, beginning before the arrival of the Mayflower and continuing to the present. From port cities where Africans disembarked from slave ships, to the battlefields where their descendants fought for freedom, from the colleges and universities where they pursued education, to places where they created communities during centuries of migration, the imprint of Americans of African descent is deeply embedded in the narrative of the American past. These sites prompt us to remember, and over time, became hallowed grounds. 


2015 Theme: A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture

When Carter G. Woodson founded the ASALH in 1915, he labored under the belief that historical truth would crush falsehoods and usher in a new era of equality, opportunity, and racial democracy. This has been its charge for a century. In honor of this milestone, ASALH has selected “A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture” as the 2015 National Black History theme.



1928 Civilization: A World Achievement
1929 Possibility of Putting Negro History in the Curriculum
1930 Significant Achievements of the Negro
1931 Neglected Aspects of Negro History
1932 What George Washington Bicentennial Commission Fail to Do
1933 Ethiopia Meets Error in Truth
1934 Contribution of the Negro in Poetry, in Painting, in Sculpture and in Science
1935 The Negro Achievements in Africa
1936 African Background Outlined
1937 American Negro History from the Time of Importation from Africa up to the Present Day
1938 Special Achievements of the Race: Oratory, Drama, Music, Painting, Sculpture, Science and Inventions
1939 Special Achievements of the Race: Religion, Education, Business, Architecture, Engineering, Innovation, Pioneering
1940 Negro Labor
1941 The Career of Frederick Douglass
1942 The Negro in Democracy
1943 The Negro in the Modern World
1944 The Negro and the New Order
1945 The Negro and Reconversion
1946 Let us Have Peace
1947 Democracy Possible only Through Brotherhood
1948 The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth
1949 The Use of Spirituals in the Classroom
1950- Outstanding Moments in Negro History
1951 Eminent Negroes in World Affairs
1952 Great Negro Educators (Teachers)
1953 Negro History and Human Relations
1954 Negro History: A Foundation for Integration
1955 Negro History: A Contribution to America’s Intercultural Life
1956 Negro History in an Era of Changing Human Relations
1957 Negro History
1958 Negro History: A Factor in Nationalism and Internationalism
1959 Negro History: A Foundation for a Proud America
1960 Strengthening America Through Education in Negro History and African Culture
1961 Freedom and Democracy for the Negro after 100 years (1861-1961)
1962 Negro History and a New Birth of Freedom
1963 Negro History Evaluates Emancipation (1863-1963)
1964 Negro History: A Basis for the New Freedom
1965 Negro History: Freedom’s Foundation
1966 Freedom from Racial Myths and Stereotypes Through Negro History
1967 Negro History in the Home, School, and the Community
1968 The Centennial of the Fourteenth Amendment Afro American History Week
1969 Changing the Afro American Image through History
1970 15th Amendment and Black America in the Century (1870-1970)
1971 African Civilization and Culture: A Worthy Historical Background
1972 African Art, Music, Literature; a Valuable Cultural Experience
1973 Biography Illuminates the Black Experience
1974 Helping America Understand
1975 Fulfilling America’s Promise: Black History Month
1976 America for All Americans
1977 Heritage Days: The Black Perspective; the Third Century
1978 Roots, Achievements and Projections
1979 History: Torch for the future
1980 Heritage for America
1981 Black History: Role Model for Youth
1982 Afro American Survival
1983 Afro Americans in the United States
1984 Afro Americans and Education
1985 Afro American Family
1986 Afro American Experience: International Connection
1987 Afro Americans and the Constitution from Colonial Times to the Present
1988 Constitutional Status of Afro Americans in the 21st Century
1989 Afro Americans and Religion
1990 Seventy-Five Years of Scholarly Excellence: A Homage to Our Forebearers
1991 Educating America: Black Universities and Colleges, Strengths and Crisis
1992 African Roots Experience New Worlds, Pre-Columbus to Space Exploration
1993 Afro-American Scholars: Leaders, Activists and Writers
1994 Empowering Black Americans
1995 Reflections on 1895: Douglass, Du Bois & Washington
1996 Black Women
1997 African Americans and Civil Rights; a Reprisal
1998 Black Business
1999 Legacy of African American Leadership for the Present and the Future
2000 Heritage and Horizons: The African American Legacy and the Challenges for the 21st Century
2001 Creating and Defining the African American Community: Family, Church Politics and Culture
2002 The Color Line Revisited: Is Racism Dead?
2003 The Souls of Black Folks: Centennial Reflections
2004 Before Brown, Beyond Boundaries: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education
2005 The Niagara Movement: Black Protest Reborn, 1905-2005
2006 Celebrating Community: A Tribute to Black Fraternal, Social, and Civil Institutions
2007 From Slavery to Freedom: Africans in the Americas
2008 Carter G. Woodson and the Origins of Multiculturalism
2009 The Quest for Black Citizenship in the Americas
2010 The History of Black Economic Empowerment
2011 African Americans and the Civil War
2012 Black Women in American Culture and History
2012 President Barack Obama National Black History Month Proclamation
2013 At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington
2014 Civil Rights in America