The U.S. has officially celebrated women’s history since 1911 — first as a day, then as a week and finally a month beginning in 1987.
The purpose of Women’s History Month is to recognize the many contributions that women have made to society, as well as their individual accomplishments, throughout the month of March. But this celebration has historically left some people out: black women.
“Black women have traditionally been written out of history unless it is in the context of victimization,” says Dr. Aimee Meredith Cox, a cultural anthropologist, author and professor at Fordham University. As a result, black women’s accomplishments and contributions have not received the same recognition as white women’s during Women’s History Month.
“Black women have traditionally been written out of history unless it is in the context of victimization.”
“When they have been recognized,” Cox tells Mashable, “black women like Rosa Parks are depicted as passive resistors rather than intentional agents of transformation.” However, advances in technology and public access to media, she believes, have “provided a platform for things we wouldn’t have seen or known years ago.”
Now, the hashtag #BlackWomensHistoryMonth is a result of this new platform, highlighting women who have contributed greatly to American history, but are rarely given credit.
Reggie Cunningham, better known as @kidnoble, has been one of the people seeking to raise awareness of these black women. Every day this month, around 9:30 a.m. CST, Cunningham has posted about an influential black woman with the hashtag.
“I thought a good way to continue this celebration of blackness into March was by honoring black women during Women’s History Month,” he tells Mashable. What started as a joke about having Black History Month every month turned into something more serious and intentional.
“The category of woman has expanded and it’s taken shape through the media.”
As a St. Louis, Missouri, resident and activist, Cunningham is familiar with the power of social media in taking control of the narrative and rewriting history.
“I live around the corner from where Vonderrit Myers was killed. I’ve met Mike Brown Sr. and faced off with the tear gas in the streets of Ferguson. I’ve seen firsthand that people can come together in social media atmospheres and effect change,” he says.
Taking note from his past experiences, Cunningham challenged himself to take advantage of social media to rewrite history and “raise awareness about just how many influential black women we don’t know about.” And it’s working.
“The category of woman has expanded, and it’s taken shape through the media and people being able to present themselves, rather than being externally represented,” Cox says.
Even when the month ends, Cunningham hopes people will be inspired to continue highlighting marginalized people all year long. #BlackPoetryMonth for April, anyone?