Black History Month Makes a Minor Appearance on Facebook

February is African American/Black History Month in the U.S. and is commonly celebrated in many different institutions here that remember the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans to this country.

A look at how celebrations of Black History Month have translated to Facebook shows that such holidays don’t really have the cache to make it big on the social network, versus other holidays such as Christmas or Valentine’s Day.  This may be attributable to how popular the celebration is overall, or a lag between migrating content from web sites to Facebook, as Black History Month is a big deal in schools, businesses and governments across the country.

But, that’s not to say that there’s nothing out there.

The U.S. Marine Corps have been posting almost daily Status Updates recalling the legacy of African Americans in this branch of the military, including the first recipient of the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War and a video recounting a history of African Americans’ service in the Corps.

Other governmental entities have also jumped into the game, some going further than others.

There are simple listings that are included in the Notes or Events sections of some pages that simply list activities to celebrate Black History Month in February.  The Facebook page of Black Canada and Kingsport, Tennessee are good examples of this, as both posted Notes with information about related events and little else.

Round Rock, a suburb of 104,000 north of Austin, Texas, did a much better job of promoting their Black History Month activities on Facebook by creating a page specifically for this year’s celebration, Round Rock Black History Month 2010, which currently has 113 fans. The Facebook page is part of Round Rock’s Black History Month 2010 Planning Committee, of which the city was a prominent member.

Although just 9% of the local population is African American, one of the page’s admins said it was important to Round Rock to promote its local history as it pertained to the February celebration with events like photography exhibits, book signings, a dance and a large kickoff party. “When we were looking to plan our events for Black History Month I thought it would be best, considering the amount of people that are on Facebook,” said Michelle Cervantes of the Round Rock Public Library and a member of the aforementioned planning committee. “It’s easy to use, it’s easy to manage and it’s free.”

Cervantes told us that in previous years she’s helped organize the city’s Black History Month events using MySpace to get the word out about events, but with the growing popularity of Facebook, the committee was unanimous in deciding to use it to the same this year. Round Rock and the library there each have their own Facebook pages, she told us, so it was logical to create one specifically for this year’s Black History Month festivities.  Success for the city’s events has been mixed.  There have yet to be formal surveys to determine how successful Facebook has been in moving people from the online world to the real world, but that’s in the works.

“I think it has definitely increased the awareness that the community of Round Rock has Black History Month events,” she said, noting that future use of Facebook to organize the event was likely. “If Facebook is still popular, free and user-friendly, then we’re definitely open to using Facebook again.”

The University of Illinois at Chicago also created a Facebook page, Black History Month 2010, for this year’s festivities that’s been actively promoting the university’s events. The Facebook page is part of the university’s Black History Month Planning Committee under the Campus Programs department.

Then there are big businesses.

AT&T’s Twenty-Eight Days Facebook page is an extension of their web site of the same name to “forward momentum” in February in the spirit of Black History Month. Several black celebrities are a part of the AT&T campaign that urges the 720 Facebook fans to set a goal for the month of February to be completed by the end of the month. The page urges people to become active, “Everybody wants a page in history…this February, get started writing yours.

Finally there’s The Black List Project, an HBO documentary that is set to premiere a third installment on February 8. The page has 2,500 fans and promotional material for the documentary, which features Whoopi Goldberg, John Legend and Hill Harper, among other “iconic” African Americans. Interviews from those featured discuss subjects that examine their experiences as African Americans.

It’s possible that by next year, if Facebook continues its global domination of social networks, that even more Black History Month-related pages with even better features will be available.  It’ll also be interesting to see how the presence of similar U.S. holidays, like National Hispanic Heritage Month from mid-September to mid-October, compare.