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15 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month in Arkansas


Black History month dates to 1926 when a black historian deemed the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” The date usually coincided with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Thurgood Marshall, two dates the black community typically celebrated. Black History Month was first celebrated in 1970 by the staff and campus of Kent State University, and President Gerald Ford officially recognized it in 1976 during the United States Bicentennial Celebration.

Celebrating Black History Month is significant for all Arkansans. It helps us learn about the past and use our understanding to change the future. As the mom of a young child, I’m always looking for ways to use experiences to help us learn and open my kid’s eyes to things I never knew at his age.

Here are some practical ways to focus on celebrating and exploring Black History month intentionally this year.

How can you celebrate Black History Month in Arkansas?

1. Visit a historically significant site to the African-American culture in Arkansas.

2. Complete the Civil Rights Trail locations in Arkansas or download the audio tour experience.

3. Visit Little Rock and be intentional about stopping to see the Testament statue on the grounds of the State Capitol. Get out and walk around. Look into their faces and stand behind them, facing the capital to imagine the group of teenagers taking a stand for something they know to be correct.

4. Visit the Central High School National Historic Site and complete the outdoor walking tour.

5. Tour the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock or the Smith Museum of African American History in El Dorado.

6. Watch The Green Book, Loving, Selma, Remember the Titans, The Tuskegee Airmen, HBO’s The Watchmen, 42 or Harriet and feel the feels and dig into the questions they bring to your heart.

7. Buy a book by a Black author.

Photo provided by Letia Wyatt.

8. Read a poem by Maya Angelou, like “A Pledge to Rescue our Youth.” Angelou grew up in Stamps, AR, and the group Celebrate! Maya Project has committed to keeping her messages alive.

9. Learn about members of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and their contributions to our world.

10. Learn about many firsts of African Americans from Arkansas

Photo used with permission from Arkansas Parks and Tourism

11. Support black-owned businesses.

12. Search for murals with historical significance in towns like Hot Springs, Fort Smith or Arkadelphia.

13. Walk through a cemetery and reflect on the people and the significance of their lives. Great options include the memorial of Rev. George Berry Washington, Scott Bond Family plot, Haven of Rest and Union Cemetery in Little Rock, Pioneer Cemetery in Washington, Oakland and Fraternal Historical Park, or Ida Bell AME Church Cemetery.

14. Listen to music by black musicians, some from Arkansas include Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Scott Joplin, Alfonzo Trent, Al Green, Louis Jordan, Al Hibbler, William Grant Still, Luther Allen, Cedell Davis or Sonny Boy Williamson.

15. Commit to doing something different this year – adjust a mindset, hold a conversation, read more books, patron businesses.

Photo used with permission from Arkansas Parks and Tourism

Learn more about Black History and Arkansas:

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in South Arkansas with her husband and sweet Boxer, Bailey and one-year-old son! Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now she is using all of those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom!

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