February is National African American History Month in the United States. It is a time to honor the work, achievements, and contributions of African Americans. Literature, art, and community-based resources share stories and help us to remember the struggle for civil rights and the importance of equality, civic action, social justice and solidarity. Looking through the lens of poetry, Langston Hughes and Audre Lorde are two African American poets who illustrate the power of voice and words.
In addition to literary explorations of African Americans’ creativity and contributions to U.S. literature, explore African American History Month in Western Massachusetts through the different cultural organizations and institutions that educate the public on the history of African Americans in our region. One of the most significant pieces of New England history is the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes, stops, and places throughout 14 northern states that were established to help escaped slaves to freedom.
Norman Rockwell’s “The Problem We All Live With,” painted in 1963, is considered an iconic image of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Asking yourself questions, visit the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, and look at his paintings closely to discover his perspective as illustrated in his iconic images of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.
The David Ruggles Center for Early Florence History & Underground Railroad in Florence, MA, in another community-based resource in Western Massachusetts to supporting learning about African American History. The center offers self-guided walking tours, including the African-American history trail, Sojourner Truth’s house, and other abolitionist sites.