First started as “Negro History Week” by Carter G. Woodson in February 1926, African American History Month is a celebration of all things Black. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History chose Black Resistance for this year’s theme:
African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings since our arrival upon these shores. These efforts have been to advocate for a dignified self-determined life in a just democratic society in the United States and beyond the United States political jurisdiction. The 1950s and 1970s in the United States were defined by actions such as sit-ins, boycotts, walk outs, strikes by Black people and white allies in the fight for justice against discrimination in all sectors of society from employment to education to housing. Black people have had to consistently push the United States to live up to its ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice for all. Systematic oppression has sought to negate much of the dreams of our griots, like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, and our freedom fighters, like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Septima Clark, and Fannie Lou Hamer fought to realize.
Billie Holiday denounced the terrorism of lynching in “Strange Fruit,” the first protest song. Bassist Charles Mingus observed that Lady Day resisted racial oppression before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
From Louis Armstrong to Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln, jazz is the music of Black Resistance.
Poet Langston Hughes said jazz transformed Black Resistance into an art form:
But jazz to me is one of the inherent expressions of Negro life in America; the eternal tom-tom beating in the Negro soul—the tom-tom of revolt against weariness in a white world, a world of subway trains, and work, work, work; the tom-tom of joy and laughter, and pain swallowed in a smile.
Jazz is the sound of resilience and the struggle for freedom.