Support these Louisville initiatives for Black History Month

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Black History Month is a time to celebrate the contributions and heritage of African Americans in the United States and shine a light on how generations have enriched American culture. It also acknowledges the many accomplishments achieved despite a lengthy history of oppression and racism.

Beginning in 1976, Black History Month has played a central role in educating about and commemorating the history of Black culture and its impact in the U.S. Celebrated in February every year, plenty can be done to learn about the history and accomplishments of generations of African American people.

So what’s going on locally to celebrate Black History Month?

Metro United Way, an organization dedicated to community inclusivity and equity in the Louisville area, offers a series of initiatives aligned with the values of Black History Month. The organization desires to “serve as a beacon of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging for all people,” said a news release.

Adria Johnson, president and CEO of Metro United Way, said Black History Month is perfect for discussing organization initiatives intended to promote community equality and evaluate systemic issues making inequity so prominent.

“This is an exciting time as we are creating and establishing pathways to equity across our community,” Johnson said. “We envision a Greater Louisville region as a place where zip code doesn’t determine destiny and everyone has the opportunity to live up to their full potential – which is a win for our entire community.”

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What is Black History Month?

Black History Month, a federally recognized celebration, acknowledges the achievements and successes of African Americans, as well as the central role they played in U.S. history through times of significant racial injustice.

Carter Godwin Woodson
Carter Godwin Woodson

Who started Black History Month?

According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Black History Month began with Carter G. Woodson. Woodson grew up in a home with parents were formerly enslaved, and he often worked in the coal mines in West Virginia throughout his childhood and teenage years. Coming from illiterate parents, Woodson was largely self-taught in his education and didn’t begin high school until 20-years-old. He went on to become the second African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University and began to acknowledge the lack of attention to Black history and achievement in the U.S. education system and started to advocate for it.

He founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and in 1926 he proposed the idea for a national “Negro History Week,” to highlight what students learned about Black history during the academic year, according to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

However, it wasn’t until 1976, 50 years after the first celebration and during heightened periods of the civil rights movement, that President Gerald Ford lengthened the week to a month, creating Black History Month.

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Why is Black History Month celebrated in February?

Woodson selected the second week of February for “Negro History Week” to encompass the birthdays of two prominent figures who contributed to shaping Black history, according to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. These are President Abraham Lincoln, who formally abolished slavery, and Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist who escaped slavery, whose birthdays are on the 12th and 14th of the month.

What's happening in Louisville for Black History Month?

Metro Way is highlighting a series of initiatives in the area to promote community equity for Black History Month. The efforts are as follows:

Young Men United

Young Men United is a recently launched initiative intended to create barrier-free pathways for young men of color to achieve their academic and career goals in Jefferson and Shelby counties. College scholarships are awarded and provide a total of $468,000 to 156 potential recipients.

United Neighbors

United Neighborhoods is dedicated to investing in neighborhoods that have historically been neglected to create equitable access to opportunities and resources. The program, beginning in 2022, focuses on the California neighborhood in west Louisville. “Historical prejudices have created disparities for residents there, compared to those in other parts of the city,” said the news release. An additional $300,000 will be contributed to the neighborhood in 2024, bringing total investments in the neighborhood from the program to $1.1 million.


Metro United Way partnered with FundBLACKFounders last year to provide grants to Louisville-based founders, as only 1% of start-up capital comes from Black entrepreneurs and there’s a higher loan denial rate for black-owned businesses as opposed to white-owned businesses, according to the release. The innovative program provides recipients with up to $25,000 in matching crowdfunding grants.

FundBLACKFounders launch, founder of Ebony Greens, Roderick Shawn Summerville, speaking
FundBLACKFounders launch, founder of Ebony Greens, Roderick Shawn Summerville, speaking

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Beyond Buzzwords

The series, featuring a variety of speakers, focuses on creating meaningful and thought-provoking conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Past speakers have included Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Robin DiAngelo, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Isabel Wilkerson, and Emily Bingham. All Beyond Buzzwords sessions are virtual events and are free to attend.

This year’s schedule is as follows, with each session beginning at noon via Zoom:

  • Tuesday, Feb. 6 with Heather McGhee, author of “The Sum of Us”

  • Tuesday, June 4 with Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of “Between the World and Me”

  • Tuesday, Oct. 8 with Alejandra Campoverdi, author of “First Gen”

Beyond Buzzwords with Ibram X Kendi
Beyond Buzzwords with Ibram X Kendi

For more information on all initiatives offered by Metro United Way, visit their website.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky initiatives to think about during Black History Month