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.
Selecting literature by Black writers is especially important during Black History Month. By celebrating and supporting Black authors and publishers, we can enable more authentic storytelling that reflects Black experiences, identities, and voices. Here are a few you can check out:
The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story. This book by Nikole Hanna-Jones weaves together 18 essays that explore the legacy of slavery in present-day America with 36 poems and works of fiction that illuminate key moments of oppression, struggle, and resistance.
The Deeper the Roots: A Memoir of Hope and Home. In his book, Michael Tubbs shares what it was like growing up Black and broke in Stockton, California. He talks about being raised by his family of strong women, the life-altering encounters he had with Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama, and the challenges of being a leader in the 21st century.
So You Want to Talk About Race. Ijeoma Oluo offers a discussion of the racial landscape in America, addressing the issues that divide us and bridging the gap between people of color and white Americans struggling with race complexities.
Speaking of Race: Why Everybody Needs to Talk About Racism―and How to Do It. A PBS host, award-winning journalist, and self-described “light-skinned Black Jew,” Celeste Headlee has been forced to speak about race since childhood. In her book, she teaches us how to have productive conversations about race and offers insights, advice, and support.
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.
1619 Project. Nikole Hannah-Jones says the contributions of Black people are often left out of the American story. Her mission is to reframe U.S. history through the lens of slavery.
The Life and Losses of Politian Michael Tubbs. Former Mayor of Stockton, California, from 2017 to 2021, Michael Tubbs tells listeners why “When you’re championing issues that go against 400 years of history, you might lose sometimes.”
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 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 would like to make you aware of several Black-owned businesses in our communities. From restaurants to bookstores, we hope you’ll consider visiting and supporting these businesses.
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|Boston/Waltham Bookstores||San Diego Bookstores|
|Boston/Waltham Arts, Music, and Events||San Diego Arts, Music, and Events|
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 date, topic, 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.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February 2021, but we’ve updated it to bring you more relevant and timely information.
This material is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice.