How Did We Become? February 15 2016

A short history of black history

What causes us to annually gather together and light candles and dance, or honor a harvest crop, or stand in a circle and look up at the stars, or drink kegs of beer to celebrate a “milestone” or an event? Our heritage, is the answer to that question. The rituals that we observed as a child and repeated annually is why we continue to observe our cultural heritage.

Our culture is inherited, natural, and intuitive. It is not family, local or regional specific. It is shared values and attitudes, and practices regardless of our environment.

Every group of people has its cultural traditions and celebrations. Germans’ Oktoberfest – the celebration of the King’s wedding. Mexicans’ Cinco de Mayo – not the celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day, but the date observed to commemorate the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla.

And Black Americans’ Juneteenth or Freedom Day that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in June 1865, and more generally the emancipation of African-American slaves throughout the Confederate South celebrated on June 19th. Most of these cultural celebrations occur across the country, while locally, we come together to honor and celebrate these familiar traditions.

February is Black History Month, launched in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson. It is a time to recognize the important milestones and achievements of a people who have made significant contributions to our history. Programs and displays retell the story of African and African-American history. Historical traditions and celebrations reveal our inherited and cultural background. It is a month to remember the details of our ancestors’ lives before our time.

Selected Black History Milestones
  • 1773 – The first book published by an African American is published: Phillis Wheatley's book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral
  • 1852 – Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin is published. It becomes one of the most influential works of fiction ever, stirring anti-slavery sentiments.

Black History celebrations are filled with informational and educational discussions and artifacts. There are colorfully decorated cars, and amazing costumes of reds, greens, yellows, and oranges; there are marches and parades. Here in Denver we celebrate our heritage with a “Marade,” (march and parade). Festival grounds explode with people and art. Music is played on drums, xylophones, and gourd instruments – fashioned much as they were 200 years ago.

Vendor booths are filled with complex textile designs, tooling of unique jewelry and bright and colorful fabrics. We learn of or meet people with an imaginative eye for art and ingenious talent. People blessed with skills for crafts and designs that have been passed down for generations and that are still being used and enjoyed today.


One of the traditional designs celebrated by many during Black History Month is the Adinkra. Used in clothing, jewelry and even marketing for generations, this pattern or group of patterns can be seen throughout Black History Month events.

Adinkra symbols are traditional drawings and icons, originally created by the Akan in what is now Ghana in West Africa. The name “Adinkra” can probably be traced back to the word “Dinkra” of the Akan/Twi Language, which is spoken by the Ashanti. “Dinkra” means: being separated, taking leave, saying farewell or goodbye.  Adinkra was the exclusive right of royalty and spiritual leaders, and only used for important ceremonies such as funerals and times of mourning. 

 African Akinkra Symbols


Adinkra Fabric


Originally the symbols were hand printed on undyed, red, dark brown or black hand-woven cotton fabric. The symbols have a decorative function but also there are many different symbols with distinct meanings, often linked with proverbs.

Adinkra Fabric

The symbols are a representation of distinct philosophies, proverbs, beliefs and history. Ghanaians use them to to communicate evocative messages representing wisdom, norms, culture, parts of their lives or those around them, as well as life in society. The Adinkra symbols of the Ashanti are timeless and still in use today.

Here at Blackscape, we use Adinkra in our mosaic stepping stones and clay pots. Of course Adinkra symbols are no longer are reserved for use only at funerals or in times of mourning. Today the symbols represent a more general sign of respect for the experiences and aphorisms, and truths of our ancestors.

Black History Month is the ideal time to celebrate these inherited concepts, which we do by featuring Adinkra symbols prominently in our outdoor mosaic designs.


Esn Ne Tekrema – “friendship, interdependence. The perfect gift for your BFF!

Adinkrahene – Chief Adinka Symbol. Represents “greatness, charisma, and leadership.”

Chief Adinkra


Gye Nyame – “supremacy of God.” The most recognized Adinkra Symbol.

Kwatakye Atiko – Show your appreciation to the men in your life by gifting this outdoor mosaic symbolizing “bravery and valor.”



Welcome – A new homeowner would appreciate this beautiful mosaic. 



House of Peace – A stunning way to welcome visitors to your home.  

For more information about our beautiful products, call Joice at 303-437-5893 and let us help you "Take Culture Outdoors."