Ask Joan: Celebrate Black history in February
January 29, 2024

Each February, we recognize and honor the successes, contributions, and sacrifices of African Americans during Black History Month.

This year’s theme, “African Americans and the Arts,” highlights the influence of African American artists across literature, music, visual arts, dance, and more. It’s a time for all of us to learn about these artists, hear their stories, and discover their work.

Black History Month began in the 1920s by Carter G. Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). He designated a week to promote Black history and culture in February to coincide with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Fueled by the Civil Rights movement, the idea spread and grew into what is now Black History Month by the late 1960s.

Joan Hatem-Roy, CEO of AgeSpan

President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized the month during the country’s 1976 bicentennial. Today, it serves as a time of reflection and awareness about African American history and the ongoing struggle for civil rights and equality.

Over the next month, exhibits, concerts, film screenings, presentations, and other events are taking place across the Merrimack Valley and North Shore.

Here are just a few local events to consider:

Take a walk on the North Andover Commons and see the banners honoring local, state, and national figures such as Charlotte Forten, abolitionist, writer, and Salem State University’s first African American graduate, and Bill Russell, legendary Celtics player and civil rights activist and Medal of Honor recipient.

Pick up a brush at a paint workshop hosted by The North Shore Juneteenth Association on Feb. 17 at Galleries at LynnArts in Lynn.

Attend an inter-active event on the African Diaspora at the Danvers Senior Center on Feb.10.

On Feb. 8, the Buttonwoods Museum is presenting “Hidden Stories, Unheard Voices: A Study of Haverhill’s Black History” at the Haverhill Public Library.

I hope this inspires you to check out an art exhibit, take in a show, or attend an event now and throughout year and celebrate the history and life of African American arts and artisans in our communities.

To find more local events, check out your local library, town hall, community center or local historical society. Learn more about the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH):

Are you caring for an older adult or need help locating healthy aging resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at for more information. You can also call us at 800-892-0890 or email Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of AgeSpan.

First published in the Eagle-Tribune.

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