Black History Month focuses on celebrating important Black figures who have made a profound impact on history and showcases their achievements. The public tends to concentrate on notable figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Muhammad Ali – however, there are countless important Black figures who have challenged societal views, shaped history, and paved the way for future generations.

Much of Black History Month concentrates on what has happened to Black Americans and the injustice they faced, and while this is important to learn about and understand, it is also especially crucial to teach and learn about how Black American have resisted injustice, experienced joy and created a better America through scientific advancements, athletics, art, and academics. 

A few notable alumni from UW-Madison & The University Of Iowa:

Lorraine Hansberry – Playwright for A Raisin In The Sun. She was the first African American playwright to make it on Broadway! She was also the first African American dramatist to win New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. She studied at UW-Madison for 2 years before making it on Broadway.

George Poage – A track star from UW-Madison was the first African American athlete to win an Olympic medal! He earned 2 bronze medals in the 1904 Olympic Games for the 200- and 400- meter hurdle races.

Virgil Abloh – Artistic director of men’s wear collection for Louis Vuitton. He’s well known for his collaboration with Kanye West and was named one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People in 2018 by Time magazine. He graduated from UW-Madison in 2002.  

Jewel Prestage – She was an educator, author, citizen activist and political scientist referred to as ‘the Mother of Black Political Science’. In 1952 she received a master’s degree at the University of Iowa and in 1954, at the age of 22, she became the first African American woman to complete a doctorate in political science in the US.

Alexander Clark Jr. – He was believed to be the first African American in the nation to receive a law degree. He graduated from the University of Iowa in 1879. 

Frank “Kinney” Holbrook – He was one of the first student athletes to break the color barrier in America. In 1895, he was the University of Iowa’s first Black football player.

Support Black-Owned Businesses

You can honor and celebrate Black History Month by supporting local and online Black owned businesses. There are registries online to help showcase which businesses are Black owned. Even if you cannot purchase something, you can still support them by liking their social media pages, sharing content online, commenting on their posts and leaving reviews. 

Here are a few resources to get you started:

Madison Black owned businesses: 

Iowa City Black owned businesses: 

Online Black owned businesses: 

Support Black Authors

Purchase, read and share their works with friends and family or on social media. 

8 books to consider:

  1. The Sellout by Paul Beatty
  2. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  3. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  4. A Brief History Of Seven Killings by Marlon James
  5. Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
  6. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  7. The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
  8. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

For more book recommendations:

Support Black Artists

You can support Black artists by finding books about them, purchasing their artwork, and following the artists on social media.

8 amazing artists to start following: 

  1. Stacie Monday 
  2. Kendra Dandy 
  3. Lisa Hunt 
  4. Danielle Louise 
  5. Morgan Harper Nichols 
  6. Gregory Prescott 
  7. Raphael Crump 
  8. Lo Harris

Watch Black Films & Documentaries

Films and documentaries can be a fantastic way to learn about culture and history. 

8 thought provoking films to consider:

  1. High On The Hog
  2. Becoming
  3. Two Distant Strangers
  4. 13th
  5. When They See Us
  6. Mudbound
  7. Dear White People
  8. Self Made

More ways to learn about, celebrate, and honor Black History Month:

  • Listen to the podcast ‘1619’ from the New York Times.