At Commonwealth, we believe the histories, stories, and voices of Black Americans should be honored and uplifted during Black History Month—and every day. Pandemic or no pandemic, there are still plenty of ways for us to celebrate and learn. Our staff has gathered a variety of resources, including music, books, films, and conversations, to help you celebrate our nation’s rich cultural heritage and understand our shared history.
Remember: Educating ourselves in the name of humanity and justice for all isn’t meant to be restricted to one month. Nor is it a prescribed list of actions or to-dos; rather, we hope these resources spark your curiosity and help us all—locally and globally—become more mindful citizens.
From classic novels to contemporary memoirs, the Black literary experience is vast and rich. Check out these resources to find your next read and see how these writers use the power of words to better our community.
Knowing the Past Opens the Door to the Future: Carter G. Woodson, the second Black American to receive a PhD in history from Harvard, is credited with creating Negro History Week, a precursor to Black History Month, in February 1926. He believed the Black experience was too important to be left to a small group of academics. Nearly a century later, his influence remains strong as legions of individuals, schools, and organizations carry his legacy forward. Learn more.
Black Is . . . : Every year, the staff at Boston Public Library compiles a list of books about the Black experience in America. (Bonus: If you have a Boston Public Library card, you can place a hold on any of these titles.) View the list.
Guide to African American Literature: Independent publishing house Reedsy curated this list of 30 must-read books by Black authors. If you’re a fan of classic literature, this collection is for you. View the list.
From podcasts to playlists and politicians to performers, we’ve compiled a range of content to tune in to for Black History Month. So, as you grind through the middle of winter, listen to our recommendations to be inspired, enlightened, and moved.
12 Podcasts About Race, Social Justice, and Black History: Vanity Fair offers a glimpse into the topics, themes, and hosts of a dozen podcasts shedding light on the issues faced by Black Americans. Many of these podcasts share important stories of resistance and joy. Read more.
The Supremes: Motown Records’ premier act, The Supremes, paved the way for future R&B and soul musicians. In honor of Mary Wilson, an original member who passed away on February 8, we invite you to enjoy this medley of hits from The Ed Sullivan Show. Watch the performance.
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man: Fox Sports analyst Emmanuel Acho hosts thought-provoking dialogues with a variety of influential guests, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Chip and Joanna Gaines. Although sometimes uncomfortable, the conversations are eye-opening. View episodes.
How better to honor the contributions and achievements of Black Americans than by learning more about their stories? We share this list of talks and films to shine a light on new voices and historical trailblazers.
23 Great TED Talks to Celebrate Black History Month: A roundup of insightful talks that offer fresh, thoughtful perspectives on Black identity. Most are 20 minutes or less. View the list.
Hidden Figures: Set in 1960s Virginia, this inspiring movie is based on the true stories of three pioneering African American women who were NASA mathematicians. Their calculations helped America achieve some of its greatest accomplishments in space. Watch the trailer.
Selma: This 2014 historical drama starring Cuba Gooding Jr. recounts the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis leading the march from Selma to Montgomery to secure equal voting rights. Watch the trailer.
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman: This 1974 television movie starring Cicely Tyson, who passed away on January 28, depicts the life of a 110-year-old Black woman (yes, 110!). She was a former slave who lived through the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. Watch the trailer.
With home offices in Waltham, Massachusetts, and San Diego, California, we thought we’d call attention to a handful of Black-owned businesses in our backyard. (This is just the tip of the iceberg!) From restaurants to bookstores, these businesses have gained a strong foothold in our communities.
Arts, Music, and Events
For more information on how to find and support Black-owned businesses in your neighborhood, check out this article from Fast Company.
Visiting a museum or library is a vibrant way to immerse yourself in the richness of other cultures, take in the stories of the past, and leave with your eyes opened a bit wider to the world. These times are full of challenges, but exploring a virtual collection is easy. Plus, you get to set the hours—and snacks are encouraged. In honor of Black History Month, here are a few virtual visits to consider:
National Civil Rights Museum: This museum documents the fight for equality, guiding visitors through five centuries of history.
New York Public Library—Digital Schomburg: This digital collection provides access to trusted information, interpretation, and scholarship on the global Black experience.
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture: This collection is rich with videos, oral histories, and photos you can browse by topic, date, or place.
Local to our home offices, Boston has the Museum of African American History, and there’s the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Arts. The Museum of African American History is hosting a few online events celebrating Black History Month that are worth checking out. When the time is right—and the doors are open—perhaps an in-person visit is in store.
Make a Lasting Impression
As parents know, young minds can be impressionable. Story time is the perfect opportunity to teach children about Black trailblazers and pioneers in our history. This roundup of 24 books to read to your children in honor of Black History Month makes it easy to get started.
Even if you don’t have little ones to read to, take a spin through the list. Scrolling through the cover art and captivating summaries is almost as good as browsing an actual bookstore or library. Almost.
Tell Us About Your Celebration
Whether you’re looking to educate yourself about Black culture in America or you want to join the conversation, we hope these resources help inspire action, connection, and awareness. If you read any of these books, watch any of these films, or visit any of these Black-owned businesses, stop by our Facebook page to tell us all about it.
Third-party links are provided to you as a courtesy. We make no representation as to the completeness or accuracy of information provided at these websites.
This material is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice.