It’s Necessary To Identify Family History as Black History

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History chose the black family as this year’s theme for Black History and I don’t think that it could have been more fitting given the last 11 months we’ve had.

Racism, social injustice, a global pandemic, and winter storm like nothing we have seen before, have made it clearer than ever the things that we should consider valuable and the people that deserve our celebration.

Yet, year after year we only celebrate inventors, actors, politicians, activists, musicians, and the likes. Forgetting our people; the people that make us who we are.

As an educator, I  want to help parents see the importance of sharing family history with their children. Especially other race foster and adoptive parents of African American children and to help upper elementary and middle school-aged children see the importance of knowing where they come from and to use that knowledge to shape who and what they want to be.

What is Family History? 

Your Family. Their history. Stories of upbringings, tradition, true love, firsts, lasts, new lives, old cities, generational hardships, finances, and how you came to be. 

“ Family is the root of African American culture.”

Why is family history important?

As time moves on, new generations are born, and our elders go on to glory.

As a result, faith and traditions that contribute to our culture can be lost. Things like jumping the broom, Kwanzaa, music, family recipes, stories of how our grandparents came to be and so much more. 

Understanding family history teaches us to appreciate the sacrifices that were made for us. It teaches us that our lives matter. It can also provide clarity of medical history.

Moreover, issues and causes of poverty, lack of education, substance abuse, financial illiteracy, and the many other traumas that haunt black families for generations can be identified and rectified.

Knowing Your Families History 

my family

For the majority of us, we can only trace our lineage back about five to seven generations due to slavery and no proper documentation prior to the 1870 Census following the Emancipation Proclamation. 

So, we rely on our grandparents to tell us about their parents. Letting those stories die would be tragic, so let’s not. 

Here’s how we do it.

Annually or Quarterly

black history themed family calendar

Each year for Black History Month choose a theme and the person(s) in the family that the theme is in honor of.  

Ex: If food is the theme, celebrate the chefs in the family. 

Or make it a quarterly thing. Each year during the month of February choose 4 family members to celebrate throughout the year. Make a day out of planning who you will celebrate, how you will celebrate them, who will be invited, etc.

A Digital Family Tree

Creating a digital family tree will make it accessible to different family members  near and far. This is another way to stay connected to distant relatives, to learn new stories and to work together documenting the history of the family. 

A digital version allows the information to be shared with multiple people. Most importantly, it makes for safe keeping.

Resources to use: adobe spark, google slides,

“Knowing your people is powerful.”

Family Reunions

family reunion
Photo by Adedotun Adegborioye on Unsplash

Family reunions strengthen the roots of the black family. However, they seem to be a thing of the past for so many African American families. Growing up I can remember them being the highlight of our summers. The food, the photo albums, the music, the card, and domino games. 

Let’s get back to that. 

Use the time that we all have stuck in doors to plan the first reunion after quarantine. 

Where to start:

  • choose a planning committee
  • set a budget
  • determine a theme
  • brainstorm activities, entertainment, and food based on the theme
  • set a date
  • find a location
  • create a relative contact list
  • collect money and family contributions
  • send save the dates
  • get required permits

In Closing…

Although this is a post for black families to learn about and recognize the contributions that family members have made to American culture. It is important for all people to recognize these contributions and celebrate them.

Equally as important, it is necessary for white families to discuss their family’s history, how their contributions affected others, and the importance of being an ally.

MLK quote on being allies

This can be done, by researching and reading about local community members that added to the infrastructures that we benefit from, sitting and talking with friends about their culture to gain a deeper understanding and passing that information on, reading books, watching documentaries, supporting local black films, and just loving all people the way Christ desires.

We shouldn’t limit black history or family history to one month out of a year either.

So, what are more quarterly, monthly, or weekly things we can do to educate year-round? 

“ Black achievements within our lineage should always be celebrated.”


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