For many, Black History Month has been viewed as a month out of the year for Americans to reflect on and celebrate the achievements and advancements of Black people in the country. For us at a Noah, this feels insufficient. American history is Black History; they are one and the same. So reducing Black History to one month has always seemed like a workaround for the larger issue of white supremacy in the nation, which is the true driving force behind the altering, omission, and erasure of this vital history.
It is to that point however; that we must acknowledge some history most are unaware of. Although Black History Month was officially recognized by Gerald Ford’s administration in 1976, it was created more than half a century before, in 1915 by Carter G. Woodson, the second Black man to graduate from Harvard University after W.E.B. DuBois. Black History Month was originally "Negro History Week" and it took place during the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Fredrick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. Once a week was no longer deemed sufficient it was increased to the entire month of February. This is important, as a common misconception is that February was insidiously chosen by higher powers because it is the shortest month of the year. Choosing a specific month within the year was another strategic choice by Woodson, as it gave Black Americans time to prepare and aggregate information to share amongst their communities. The irony that the man who created a month dedicated to celebrating black history is largely left out of that very history, only proves the necessity of Black History Month's creation in the first place - getting the story right and spreading it to the masses.
This Black History Month, Noah would like to highlight revered novelist and activist James Baldwin. Baldwin’s essays, novels and public discourse spared no words in directly addressing and antagonizing America’s deeply rooted foundations of systemic racism and homophobia; issues as relevant during his lifetime as they are today. As a Black man who left America to escape the suffocating hand of white supremacy and bigotry, which he very literally believed would lead to his demise, Baldwin’s journey personifies the plight of Black people both in America and abroad. Following his expatriation to France where he spent most of his life, Baldwin grew in notoriety and prominence, publishing novels, and cementing his helm as a literary stalwart and trusted voice of the Black condition. This created a rapport between Baldwin and high-ranking politicians, aristocrats, and celebrities, granting him not only unprecedented access, but profound respect during the most crucial moments of the civil rights movement.
In collaboration with the Twenty Summers organization, we are releasing our James Baldwin tee which features a photograph taken by photographer Paula Kotis as seen on the cover of the first edition of ‘Notes Of A Native Son’ by James Baldwin in 1955. Half of the proceeds will go to Twenty Summers, a nonprofit art organization based out of Provincetown, Massachusetts that works with Kotis's estate and provided the photo, and the other half will go to Museum Hue whose mission is to empower and support the cultural equity of people of color in the art world.