Black History Month is a call to celebrate Black culture in the U.S. and to ensure we honor Black voices and stories year-round. We are inspired by these meditations on Black history and futures from MacArthur Fellows.
N.K. Jemisin’s short story collection poses the question: “How Long ’til Black Future Month”? From an early version in 2013, How Long ’til Black Future Month, she writes, “As I write this, it’s February — Black History Month in the United States. Everyone jokes that of course black history gets celebrated only during the shortest month of the year. No one seems puzzled by the fact that there is no time correspondingly devoted to examining, celebrating, or imagining the Black future.”
Kiese Laymon talks about his book Long Division, revising his own work, and the themes of history and legacy, both personal and societal, in an interview with PBS.“I think when you really look at the history of this country, particularly history of Black folks in the deep south, I think we see that revision and resistance to revision are the why of why we’re here.”
Nikole Hannah-Jones’ The 1619 Project frames U.S. history with the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the center. She writes in one essay, “Black Americans have also been, and continue to be, foundational to the idea of American freedom. More than any other group in this country’s history, we have served, generation after generation, in an overlooked but vital role: It is we who have been the perfecters of this democracy.”
Hanif Abdurraqib talks about his book A Little Devil in America, which traces the history of Black performances and Black excellence, in an interview on Fresh Air, and he talks about watching “Soul Train,” for the book and as a kid: “For me as a kid, seeing “Soul Train,” it felt like everyone was having the best time of their lives every single week, a freedom perhaps unlocked that they could not find everywhere else out in the world, right? And I think that is maybe the secret to what Don Cornelius did, was that he built a small world inside of a much larger world, one that felt for an hour or two like there was some freedom inside of it that was unattainable elsewhere.”
P Gabrielle Foreman’s Colored Conventions Project traces a history of Black organizing and creates a new community of archivists. She says, “it mirrors the principles of the convention movement itself. We bring together archivists, historians, humanists, artists, graduate student leaders, undergraduate researchers, the families who hold records, in order to bring the buried history of collective black organizing to life.”