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Forest Park’s District 91 celebrated Black History Month in February, the month officially recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976 as a time to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

February was originally designated as Black History Month because, according to history.com, the group known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) sponsored a national Negro History week in 1926, choosing the second week of February because the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass occurred then. Schools and communities participated, and the event grew.

In the years that followed, mayors of cities across the country began recognizing Negro History Week. By the end of the 1960s, many college campuses not only celebrated the week, but had helped it evolve into an entire month of recognition and celebration for and of African Americans. It became known as Black History Month.

Today, it is widely celebrated, and Forest Park’s public schools used February to focus on and celebrate the contributions and history of black Americans.

On Wednesday, Feb. 12, Grant-White Elementary School invited families to their celebration of Black History Month with a “wax museum” and literary night. The event, developed by Grant-White reading specialist Deana Greco, allowed guests to learn about more than 80 famous African Americans. Students, who had been randomly assigned famous African Americans to study and present, created posters for each famous individual that honored their achievements. Guests during the night’s event could push a “button” (made from paper), and students transformed into the person they were representing.

From Nelson Mandela to Michael Jordan, from Harriet Tubman to Michelle Obama, students prepared display boards and dressed up as historical figures, giving an oral presentation to guests who stopped by. A video of the event can be seen at tinyurl.com/sfqfmx4.

At Field Stevenson Elementary School, classroom doors were decorated in themes representing aspects of African American history in the United States. Principal Tiffany Brunson spoke about the significance of Black History Month and what it means to her and the school.

“Black history is American history and should be handled with the reverence and importance it deserves,” said Brunson in a statement. “At Field we decorated our doors, which is not only fun and visually appealing but a cool way to teach our children about accomplishments of African Americans. Our teachers eagerly participated, and the results are not only stunning but powerful! Decorating our doors and halls are great additions to some of the work the teachers do throughout the year, teaching black history not just in February.”