Americans recognize February as Black History Month, but many parents struggle to communicate the relevance and importance of the celebration and also wonder how best to teach their children about black culture.

Americans recognize February as Black History Month, but many parents struggle to communicate the relevance and importance of the celebration and also wonder how best to teach their children about black culture.

"I think Tavis Smiley put it best when he stated, 'It [Black History Month] is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things,'" said Larry Williamson Jr., director of the Frank Hale Black Cultural Center at The Ohio State University.

Black History Month was initiated in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson; scholar, educator, writer, and historian, during the second week of February to honor Abraham Lincoln's and Frederick Douglass' birthdays, Williamson explained. It has also been said Dr. Woodson chose this month because many slaves did not hear about the signing of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution until February.

"Black History Month is important because American and world history has never reflected the significant role that African-Americans played in the creation of history, as well as the global economy.

Thus, Black History Month provides an opportunity for all of us to learn of those contributions, recognize the role of African-Americans in world history, and question why our text and history books do not reflect this information," said Dr. Barbara Nicholson, executive director of The King Arts Complex.

There is concern about whether Black History Month is still relevant in American society, according to Gabrielle St. Leger, coordinator of African-American Student Services at OSU. "What people need to understand is we still have a long way to go in curriculum development. Celebrating the month is tradition and it gives those schools that are monolithic in nature a starting point," she said.

"Parents should recognize their children are growing up in a multicultural world," St. Leger said. "They are not going to be successful if they can't comprehend and communicate with other cultures."

St. Leger advised parents to take theme trips to the library and to encourage children to ask questions. She also wanted to assure parents that they don't have to be black history experts. Learning for both parent and child is day-to-day.

"Parents can teach consistent open-mindedness," St. Leger said. "Yes, schools can incorporate a curriculum, but children come from a home base. Teach about inclusiveness."

Williamson agreed. "More than likely, formal education will gloss over or give a limited perspective about the accomplishments in Black history and African-American people. It is important that parents teach Black history through their formal and informal experiences with their children."

Williamson said parents can find teaching opportunities every day. "Black history is Senator Barack Obama winning the Iowa Caucuses and becoming a viable candidate for president. Black history is exposing our children to the works of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson, Elijah Pierce and Romare Bearden at the Columbus Museum of Art. Black history is taking your children to the King Arts Complex and enjoying a play, art or musical entertainment."

All of the experts agree it is important to seek out Black history learning opportunities throughout the year.

"While it's wonderful The Ohio State University is celebrating its 38th annual kick off, student groups here are making a concentrated effort to provide programming throughout the year," St. Leger said.

"The observance of Black History Month should be more than 28 or 29 days devoted to listing the accomplishments of Thurgood Marshall, Harriet Tubman and Jackie Robinson," said Angela Pace, director of community affairs at WBNS-10TV. "Black History Month should be a jumping off point, encouraging all of us regardless of race, color, creed, or ethnic origin, to learn more about the culture of a people who for hundreds of years have contributed to the growth, prosperity, and flavor of this country."

Important figures in Columbus' black history

Granville T. Woods - Electrical engineer, 1856-1910 Columbus Bluebirds - Negro National League Baseball Team, 1933 Columbus Buckeyes -- Negro National League Baseball Team, 1921 Archie Griffin - Two-time Heisman Trophy winner in 1974 and 1975 Elijah Pierce -- Artist, 1892-1984 Bill Willis -- Dominant figure in professional football during the 1940s and 1950s. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and Professional Football Hall of Fame. Nancy Wilson -- Jazz singer, born 1937
More about Black History Month from Larry Williamson Jr., director of the Frank Hale Black Cultural Center at The Ohio State University.

Although February is the shortest month of the year, it was not Dr. Woodson's intention or a conspiracy to short-change the history, culture and contributions of Black people, Williamson said. Woodson wanted to proudly acknowledge the many contributions of the rich African and African-American heritage and culture.

Black History Month originally was named Negro History Week. It later evolved in 1976 to Black History Month. It commemorates the heroines and heroes of the Black community. It helps to fill the void left in our history books, intentionally or unintentionally, about Black people's accomplishments in the world.

It is a true reflection of the many accomplishments of Black people whose names range from A Z. Black History is people like preacher and civil rights activist the Rev. Ralph Abernathy and the writings of Zora Neale Hurston; it is the classical music of Marian Anderson to the sultry baritone voice of Barry White. It's impossible to absorb all the accomplishments of African-Americans in one month; however, there had to be a starting point and because of the brilliance of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, February starts Black History Month. It is up to us to make sure it doesn't stop at the end of February.

Children's books:

100 African-Americans Who Shaped American History (100 Series) by Chrisanne Beckner An African Princess by Lyra Edmonds and Anne Wilson In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall: African-Americans Celebrating Fathers by Javaka Steptoe I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African-American Poetry by Catherine Clinton and Stephen Alcorn 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African-American History by Jeffrey C. Stewart
Activity books:

A Kid's Guide to African-American History: More than 70 Activities (Kid's Guide series) by Nancy I. Sanders The African-American Child's Heritage Cookbook by Vanessa R. Parham Addy's Paper Dolls: Addy and Her Friends with Outfits to Cut Out and Scenes to Play With (The American Girl Collection) by American Girl

Terreece M. Clarke has been a published freelance writer since 1999 for a variety of Web sites, magazines and newspapers. Along with syndicated column work, Terreece has also produced hard news, feature and humor articles and is an accomplished photojournalist. Terreece lives in Columbus with her husband David, 2-year-old daughter Olivia and fish Zippy.