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  • Ask the librarian: Why is Black History Month celebrated in February, and how can I learn more and become involved in advancing healthcare equity?
A photo of Joshua Shulman, LRC Director

Joshua Shulman, MSIS, Director of Learning Resource Center discusses the origins of Black History Month, a special LRC Black History Month LibGuide, and other ways to learn more and get involved in advancing healthcare equity.

Feb. 16, 2022

How did Black History Month get started, and why is it celebrated in February?

February 14 marked the 204th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass, abolitionist, educator, and social reformer. I should say that it “roughly” marks the date of his birth. Having been born into slavery, Douglass’ exact birthday remains unknown. According to Douglass himself, as recorded in his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, “I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it…I do not remember to have ever met a slave who could tell of his birthday” (1845). Upon escaping and emancipating himself, at approximately the age of 20 years, he selected February 14 as his chosen birthday. According to an undated Washington Post article, “After he got his freedom he celebrated St. Valentine’s Day as his birthday, since he felt he had a good a right to have a birthday as other people, and he liked the traditions surrounding that date” (n.d.).

The date also proved important to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, academic, historian, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), and creator of Black History Month. According to ASALH Former National President Daryl Michael Scott, the month of February was selected by Woodson to celebrate Black History Month because two specific dates, February 14 and February 16, were the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, “two great Americans who played a prominent role in shaping black history” (ASALH 2022).

How is Black History Month particularly relevant to health sciences?

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) designates a new theme for Black History Month each year, in keeping with the practice Woodson established.

The Black History Month 2022 theme, “Black Health and Wellness,” explores “the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birthworkers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora. The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well.”

What is the SCU LRC doing to honor and celebrate Black History Month?

In honor of Black History Month, I have created a Black History Month Library Guide and compiled links to literature and websites that celebrate the achievements and cultural contributions of African Americans while also providing an opportunity to reflect on the history and experiences of African American communities.

As SCU is a health sciences university, the first section of the guide focuses on health and wellness. Resource topics include bioethics, mental health, health disparities, diversity in health care, cultural competence, and holistic African American healing and wellness traditions.

The History section includes the massive volume of African American Lives by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., featuring 600 biographies. I have also included a link to the full text of the aforementioned Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.

We have also included a Culture section highlighting titles related to music, cinema, literature, and popular culture, as well as an Activism section featuring titles that document the struggle against systemic racism and violence and for civil rights and health equity.

And the Resources section lists Black professional associations, including the American Black Chiropractic Association and the Black Acupuncturist Association.

There are hundreds of historical, full texts available to SCU students on ProQuest related to African American and African diaspora history. These texts include highly specific academic histories that span wide chronological and geographic ranges. I encourage visitors to search ProQuest for additional titles.

What else is happening for Black History Month at SCU?

All SCU faculty, staff and students were invited to participate in the ASALH virtual Black History Month Virtual Festival, all month long. SCU will be hosting a discussion panel and raffle on Monday, Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. with SCU’s festival attendees.

Are there any Black student interest groups or clubs at SCU that are helping to further discussions on advancing healthcare equity?

Yes! The SCU Melanated Medics Club supports academic excellence, community service and outreach; cultural enrichment and awareness; and unity of the African American student body at SCU, who are pursuing healthcare careers and medical programs. The SCU Melanated Medics Club aims to encourage and implement more diversity in healthcare. Only 6% of physicians are black, as African-Americans continue to struggle with a range of negative health outcomes compared with whites. SCU students created the Melanated Medics Club to help increase the number of Black healthcare professionals, and bridge the diversity gap.

To learn more about Melanated Medics and other student clubs, log visit the Clubs & Student Life page on mySCU.


About the LRC

The Seabury-McCoy Learning Resource Center advances the teaching, research, and service programs of the Southern California University of Health Sciences, by providing innovative services and acquiring, preserving, and making accessible scholarly resources; and promoting information literacy for lifelong learning.

During each academic year, the SCU LRC welcomes thousands of visitors across its online library network each month. Visitors completed more than 800,000 database searches during the 2020/2021 academic year.

For more information about the LRC, contact Joshua Shulman, MLIS, Director, LRC, at joshuashulman@scuhs.edu.

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