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Celebrating African American History

In the 1950s, celebrations of Negro History Week often took the form of edifying cultural evenings that presented dance, music, lectures, and tableaux depicting classical themes and emphasizing the qualitative parallels between African American and white accomplishment. As the week expanded into Black History Month in the 1970s, emphasis shifted to a celebration of African American culture and reclamation of an African heritage. Dance, music, and lectures remained, but increasingly moved away from classical European models and toward African and African American modes and forms. The growing interest in reclaiming African American history soon outgrew the confines of its designated month, and despite a slow start in many schools, became an integral part of the mission of many African American social and philanthropic organizations, which incorporated celebrations of prominent African Americans and culture into their programs.