The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) has chosen to highlight the Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity as the 2021 Black History Month theme. Founded in 1915 by Carter G. Woodson, known as the "Founder of Black History," ASALH first promoted discussion of the black experience by people of all ethnic and social backgrounds through the formation of Negro History Week in 1926. This went on to expand to include the entire month of February in 1976.¹ ASALH lists past themes since 1928 on its website. This year's theme focuses on celebrating the representation, identity, and diversity of black families as seen through family reunions, genealogical research, and interconnections across nations and continents:
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.²
For more information on this year's theme, visit ASALH's the Black Family page.
Hillman Library will be hosting and co-coordinating several virtual events to celebrate Black History Month 2021. For a detailed listing of the events, check out the Events page.
The Library holds several resources related to the Black Family theme. To find some library materials about Black families in in the U.S. and in Pittsburgh and Black History in Pittsburgh, check out the Resources page.
Researchers of this year's theme may find the following search terms useful:
¹ Association for the Study of African American Life and History. "Our History." https://asalh.org/about-us/our-history/ (Accessed Jan. 14, 2021)
²__. "Black History Themes." https://asalh.org/black-history-themes/ (Accessed Jan. 14, 2021)
Image: Baby Show (ca. 1930-1940). Courtesy of Archives & Special Collections, University Library System, University of Pittsburgh.