Black History Month: 15 Terms to Help You Understand Its Significance in The U.S.

Ellison ClaptonRevisado porNataliia Afonina / más sobre Proceso editorial13 min
Creado: Feb 10, 2023Última actualización: Mar 11, 2024
Black History Month 15 Terms

Black History Month celebrates African Americans' contributions, culture, and achievements in the United States. It is marked each year during the month February and has been a part of the national calendar since the late 1970s. The Black History Month word list will be helpful if you're an English learner and need to understand the key terms associated with this important event.

This article will provide you with everything you need to know about the language surrounding Black History Month. We will also explain the history and significance of this period in U.S. culture and provide examples of how it is celebrated today. So, read the list of inspirational words for Black History Month.

Historical Background Behind Black History Month

The event, now known as Black History Month, was first started in 1926 by African American historian and sociologist Carter G. Woodson. He wanted to recognize the achievements of black Americans throughout history and called for a national Negro History Week. He intended for the event to be celebrated annually during February to coincide with the birthdays of two important abolitionists: Frederick Douglass, born into slavery on February 2, 1818, and Abraham Lincoln, president at the time who freed enslaved people through an executive order on January 1, 1863 (the Emancipation Proclamation).

The purpose of Negro History Week was to create awareness of African Americans' contributions, culture, and accomplishments that often were not acknowledged. The event has grown in popularity and has been extended into a monthlong celebration (now known as Black History Month) across the United States, with numerous cities and states announcing their official celebrations in honor of the occasion.

Besides the USA, similar remembrance has spread to many other countries, such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and even Australia. Thus, it is  no longer just an event meant to celebrate black heritage in the U.S.; it is a month marked by a global appreciation for African culture.

Black History Vocabulary: 15 Words and Phrases You Must Know

Now that you understand the context and origin of African American History Month, let's look at some keywords that will help you navigate conversations around it. The list below contains essential Black History Month words and phrases. Be sure to review them so you become comfortable with their meaning and how they are used in a sentence.

1. Abolition

This term means eliminating something, especially an institution or practice, considered a social evil. The abolition of slavery was an important outcome of the Civil War in U.S. history. It marked a huge step forward for African Americans' equality and civil rights.

While the original concept of this black history word applied primarily to the end of slavery, its meaning has been broadened over time and involved much more widely today. We now use this larger sense when discussing movements that seek justice related to criminal reform, immigrant rights, racial equality, gender job equity, or any other cause deemed unjust by those fighting for change.

2. Black Girl Magic 

Black Girl Magic is a hashtag and phrase used to celebrate African American girls' beauty, resilience, and strength. CaShawn Thompson popularized the term in 2013 as part of her campaign #blackgirlmagic. 

The expression is an empowering message for many young black women who are often overlooked or underrepresented but have so much potential that it can't be denied when seen firsthand. This magic only shines within themselves! It also helps highlight their achievements against all odds, encouraging others to believe there is a hope, regardless of what has happened before.

3. Black Power

Black Power is one of the Black History Month slogans popularized in the U.S. during the 1960s civil rights movement. It is used to describe actions aiming for African American empowerment and liberation. 

It initially encouraged black Americans (and people of color more widely) not just to focus on ending racism but also on building economic self-sufficiency and forming autonomous communities that could provide support without relying exclusively on government or non-profit systems. Such efforts are still seen today, from grassroots activism for racial justice to the flourishing Black business and entrepreneurial scene.

4. Black, with a capital "B"

It is one of the most powerful black history words. Black, with a capital "B," was initially used in the late 1970s, referring to a political and cultural identity for black people. It was meant to unify underrepresented groups suffering from racism/oppression (especially African Americans) by reclaiming their individual worth through collective action and strength, regardless of national or ethnic origins. 

The term eventually made its way into popular culture, appearing everywhere from literature, film & television shows to activism circles around racial justice today – creating new ways of thinking about race beyond what we commonly see in most media outlets. The capitalization of the letter "B" emphasizes this viewpoint, serving as a reminder of the complexity and importance behind such discourse surrounding African Americans and their histories.

5. Civil Rights Movement

The civil rights movement was an important period of social and political activism in the mid-20th century aimed at guaranteeing African Americans legal access to equal protection under the law – especially participating in citizenship, education, voting rights, and employment opportunities. This movement was led by civil rights pioneers such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, and others who refused to accept the prevailing discrimination and fought for an equal society.

The work done through this period had a lasting impact in remedying historical injustices faced by black Americans throughout generations. The civil rights movement eventually led to the passage of civil rights laws in 1964 and 1965 that prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin.

6. Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation is adopting one's culture or practices from a minority group and using them in disrespectful, offensive, or exploitative ways. It can be seen as anything from wearing clothes with stylized symbols associated with certain cultures (such as Native American headdresses) for fashion purposes to popularizing traditions like smudging (a type of purifying ritual involving smoke) without respecting its sacred meaning within First Nation Culture. 

It often results in the trivialization of certain cultures or symbols, as well as the loss of their power and meaning (particularly for those from whom they originated). The discussion about cultural appropriation has been particularly relevant to African American culture, music, and fashion since the emergence of "hip-hop culture."

7. Diaspora

The term diaspora originates from the Greek word for "dispersal." It is used to describe any community of people who have been dispersed outside their homeland due to war, slavery, or other forms of persecution and are now spread across many different parts of the world – like African Americans throughout history. 

The Trans-Atlantic slave trade saw millions brought into bondage beginning as early as the 15th century until its eventual abolition in the 19th century. It resulted in a large and diverse African American population (known as "African diaspora") that spans all major continents today.

8. Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation is an executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, during the Civil War that declared "all persons held as slaves" within Confederate-held states to be "forever free." It was a turning point in U.S. history, not only symbolizing freedom for those enslaved but also paving the way for the full abolition of slavery. It has since become recognized worldwide as a significant achievement in securing equal rights and ultimately helping African Americans complete emancipation from bondage.

9. Freedom Riders

Freedom riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses to challenge state enforcement of segregated bus policies throughout the 1940s and 1950s. The first ride began on May 4, 1961, in Washington, DC, and continued to all parts of the South.

The goal of these rides was to test the enforcement of interstate transportation – especially the arrangements associated with desegregation buses. Their tactics invoked a nationwide response that eventually led many states to comply with federal laws ordering desegregation across transportation systems. Therefore, the legacy of the freedom riders remains an important part of the movement for civil rights.

10. Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance refers to a period of intense artistic, political, and intellectual activity among African Americans in the New York City neighborhood of Harlem. It spanned roughly from WWI to the Great Depression. It saw the emergence of many new writers, musicians, and fine artists – from household names like Langston Hughes or Duke Ellington to lesser-known visual artists like Winold Reiss. 

The Harlem Renaissance was a significant cultural movement that celebrated black culture in a period where mainstream media often overlooked such phenomena. Its legacy remains true today, inspiring generations of contemporary African Americans and beyond.

11. Intersectionality

This term is also among the words for Black History Month. Intersectionality was coined by civil rights advocate and legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw. It refers to the overlapping of different social identities (such as race, class, gender, etc.) that contribute to one's unique societal experience – particularly within marginalized groups or oppressive contexts. 

This concept has been important for highlighting the complex ways systemic oppression works and its implications on how we understand topics like racism, sexism, etc., today. Furthermore, it can help us better understand historical discrimination and its lasting effects on African American communities throughout the U.S.

12. Jim Crow Laws

Jim Crow laws were a set of state and local statutes in the United States that enforced segregation, predominantly between blacks and whites. They mandated racial segregation in all public facilities, including schools, restaurants, buses, theaters – just about everywhere. 

These discriminatory practices went into effect shortly after Confederate states re-established their political power following Reconstruction (1877–1900). These laws persisted well into the mid-20th century until a series of court cases (beginning with the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education, 1954) struck them down.

13. Reconstruction

Reconstruction can refer to restoring something as it was before, or in this case, to the period following the Civil War when newly-freed African Americans were given certain rights and an opportunity for economic gain. 

This era (1865 – 1877) saw massive changes in legislation that gave black citizens more legal protections than ever before, such as allowing them equal footing with their white counterparts politically, financially, and socially. Though these advances were met with pushback and ultimately stunted near their end, they remain an important milestone in American history – setting a standard for civil rights that stands even today.

14. Reparations

Reparations are any compensation for past harm, injustices, and/or suffering. It is often used within a legal context when referring to damages awarded in a court of law – but it has also been applied to broader topics such as moral reconciliation between two nations (German Holocaust) or post-slavery initiative programs. 

The concept of African American reparations specifically centers around compensating descendants of enslaved people due to their exclusion from educational opportunities and economic benefits that helped build "white wealth" over centuries, thus addressing a major historical and social injustice.

15. Segregation

This term refers to the legal and institutional separation of African Americans from their white counterparts imposed in many states throughout U.S. history, primarily during the 19th century when slavery was commonplace and after Reconstruction when freed slaves were oppressed. 

Segregation primarily applied to public facilities, transportation services, and educational institutions – but it covered virtually all aspects of black Americans' daily life back then. This enforced racial hierarchy had major implications for African American society and limited their access to resources. Thankfully, its impact has significantly dissipated over time and is rarely seen or enforced in 21st-century communities.


10 Greetings That Will Expand Your Black History Month Vocabulary

Greetings are an essential part of Black History Month, to welcome and recognize those who have come before us and to express appreciation and admiration for their achievements. Here are some Black History Month greetings to become familiar with:

  • We can all feel proud of ourselves as the world acknowledges our strength during this month of our black history!
  • Let us celebrate Black History Month by honoring those who have worked hard to bring change and equality to our society! Warm wishes with lots of love on this special occasion. 
  • May this month be a true representation of the strength and fearlessness of the incredible community.
  • Let us pay tribute to all native African Americans for their tolerance, bravery, resilience, and courage.
  • It's time to learn from history how steadfast resolve and resiliency may bring success!
  • In honor of the leaders of Black history, we recognize the strength of resiliency and sacrifice this month.
  • Let's put an end to racism, prejudice, and discrimination. Greetings for Black History Month!
  • Regrettably, people were subjected to torture, oppression, and discrimination based solely on their skin tone. Let's commemorate Black History Month in their honor.
  • Happy Black History Month! Let us honor the heroes and heroines who meant so much to our history. We will never forget them or their incredible sacrifices.
  • Warm wishes to everyone this Black History Month as we pay tribute to all amazing African-American heroes, leaders, and historical figures that have fought against racism throughout time.

These greetings will help you navigate conversations related to Black History Month. Whether it's sending a note of appreciation or being prepared for questions, practice these comfortable phrases to confidently celebrate this special month!

Learn Black History Words with Promova

Whether you're an English learner looking for some help understanding the words associated with Black History Month or even want to widen your museum vocabulary, Promova will provide you with all the phrases you need to know. Using our mobile app, you can access various vocabulary lists, some of which are related to Black History Month. The app also includes activities such as quizzes and a flashcard feature for extra practice, so you can really understand the Black History Month words' spelling, meaning, and pronunciation.

Our language learning platform will provide various courses and activities to help you learn the language effectively and enjoyably. Depending on your level and aims, you can choose a specialized course focusing on different aspects like grammar or pronunciation.

You can also take advantage of group and individual classes with our experienced teachers, who have native-level language proficiency. Whether you are a beginner or have advanced skills – we will provide you with the right course and teacher to help you reach your goals. Every student can customize their learning path, ensuring they are challenged while having fun. So, if you are keen to master a new language and explore another culture, sign up with Promova and let us help you reach your goal.


Black History Month is a special period of celebration and reflection in the United States, as it honors African American contributions throughout history. It is a time to stop and remember African Americans' struggles and all they have accomplished. By familiarizing yourself with the black history vocabulary list and learning the key terms associated with this important event, you can better understand its meaning and significance, thus deepening your appreciation for it.

After learning the words to describe Black History Month, you will be better equipped to discuss and participate in conversations about the event. So, get started today and explore this unique month's slogans and greetings. Be sure to use resources like and Quizlet to further your comprehension of the language.


What is the purpose of Black History Month?

The goal of Black History Month is to commemorate and celebrate African Americans' historical achievements and progress in society. It recognizes their significant impact on culture, politics, music, art, education, and other fields.


Why is it important to learn terms for Black History Month?

Knowing not just one word to describe Black History Month but a variety of related and specific terms can help create meaningful conversations about this important time. Learning more words in English related to African American history will increase your understanding of what happened in the past, why it matters today, and how to move forward together.


When is Black History Month celebrated in the U.S.?

The month of February has been designated Black History Month since 1976. It is an annual occasion to honor African Americans' contributions and recognize their accomplishments.

How to greet people during Black History Month?

Greetings are essential to conversations around this special month. You can greet people in various ways, like expressing appreciation for their work and sacrifices or recognizing their strengths and resilience. Additionally, you can also mention your hopes for fighting against racism, prejudice, and discrimination in the future. Understanding Black History Month terms can also help facilitate healthy conversations that can make a positive impact.


SageJan 23rd, 2024
Thank you for shedding light on this topic. Very enlightening!
david Jul 27th, 2023
i appreciate how this article educates readers about the historical context and significance of each term related to Black History Month