Word Nerd: 5 Essential Terms for African-American History Month

25 Feb

5 Essential Terms for African-American History Month

February is African-American History Month in the US. The month celebrates important people and events in the history of the African diaspora, and is observed by countries like Ireland, UK, the Netherlands, and Canada as well.

In honour of the US observation, which is nearing its end (but if you’re in the UK – it’s will be celebrated in October), we bring you 5 phrases that have probably seen many times but that you should know well.

● Juneteenth: In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, even as he was in the thick of a Civil War. This proclamation abolished slavery in Confederate states. However, it took until 19 June 1865 for Texas to announce the President’s declaration.So, 19th and June combined to give us Juneteenth. It is also known as Freedom Day. Celebrations include prayers, gathering, and red food and drink. The colour symbolises not just the blood of slaves but nods to West Africa where it was powerful colour in many cultures.

● Lynching: The term refers to the murder of black people by white mobs without legal authority. According to the Tuskegee University, more than 3000 Black people were lynched between 1882 and 1968. According to Sandy Alexandre, Associate Professor of Literature at MIT, through lynching “violence itself was made into an event. Families would bring their children to view gruesome murders…”It was only in 2018 that lynching was declared a federal crime. In the same year, a memorial was dedicated to all lynching victims in Montgomery, Alabama.

● Black Girl Magic: Originally a term, black girl magic now trends as a hashtag. It celebrates the accomplishments and awesomeness of black women. This concept was coined by CaShawn Thompson and has seen major support from celebrities such as Misty Copeland, Michelle Obama, Solange Knowles, among others.Here is a slam poem on Black Girl Magic by the poet Mahogany L. Browne.


Black Panther:
Before it was a Marvel hit, the term referred to a member of the Black Panther Party. BPP was founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale during the turbulent Civil Rights Movement.

While the term was used disparagingly by those critical of Black activism – we hope that the Marvel hit and Chadwick Boseman (rest in peace) have changed that. Now, the black panther is predominantly a symbol of courage, grace and excellence.


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