Brands and Black History Month: A Weekly Look at Culture, Conversations and Content - 2.19.21 edition

February 19, 2021

During Black History Month, we’ll be recapping the brand and company news and trends we’re seeing when it comes to the culture, content and conversations around this important moment in time. At the end of each week in February, we’ll share a summary of what we’ve seen during the week — delivering actionable insights for your brand.

Horizontal dividing line

The Week in Summary

New announcements and initiatives from brands in honor of Black History Month (BHM) have slowed down in week three of BHM 2021, but overall conversation to celebrate and recognize the Black community continues. From spotlighting Black creators to promoting programs that highlight and give back to Black entrepreneurs, this year’s BHM focus is not losing momentum.

However, white privilege and bias continue to be general topics of focus related to the Black community this month, with coverage of Amy Cooper, the white woman who called 911 and falsely accused a Black Central Park bird-watcher, having her charges dismissed and reports of racist attacks during virtual BHM events at New Jersey universities. These stories during a month meant to celebrate Black accomplishments show a persisting racial divide in the U.S.

There also have been conversations about evolving the intent of Black History Month—looking forward, not just to the past. In fact, BET founder Robert Johnson told CNBC earlier this week that he proposes renaming the month to “Black history, Black futures,” to “put more focus on what’s needed to deliver equal economic opportunities in the years ahead.”

Perhaps this future-focused approach will come into play sooner than later. Are there ways your brand can celebrate the past achievements of the Black community while providing ways to secure a positive future?

Horizontal dividing line

Cultural Landscape

Brands and Black History Month Feb 19 - Cultural Landscape
(Photo credit: Etty Fidele on Unsplash)

The U.S. population continues to wrestle with the debate about privilege, ranging from discussion about how to approach lack of privilege to how to reconcile and deal with white privilege. This issue moved into the spotlight this week on social media, as the most shared news story* related to BHM was about charges being dropped for Amy Cooper. The most re-shared news articles on social media specifically pointed out that Amy was largely able to avoid legal consequences due to taking racial bias classes. On social media, users are using this story as an example of how white privilege still stands in the way of holding people accountable of discriminatory behavior—even during Black History Month.

The second-most talked about story on social media this week* was about fast-food workers across the nation striking for a $15 per hour minimum wage, specifically in honor of BHM. While trade pubs like Business Insider saw online traction, Gen-Z lifestyle outlet Teen Vogue’s news coverage of the story currently has the highest number of social re-shares. This may indicate that younger consumer groups are passionate about holding companies accountable for “doing right” by underprivileged groups—and they’re paying especially close attention during key moments in time like Black History Month.

Although BHM is meant to uplift and celebrate Black culture, in the wake of a tumultuous, stressful 2020 and overall greater attention on systemic racism, BHM can also trigger focus on negative past trauma. That’s why recognizing the importance of mental health among the Black community is gaining importance. Health Magazine featured interviews with five Black women on their approach and guidance for self-care year-round, but especially during BHM.

*according to Spike Newswhip analysis of the last 7 days

Horizontal dividing line

Corporate/Brand Actions

Brands and Black History Month Feb 19 - Corporate-Brand Activations
(Photo Credit: Mastercard)

As we pass the halfway point in Black History Month, significant announcements from corporations and brands have slowed. With limited news continuing, we are seeing similar trends in types and variations of programming, most notably in support of Black-owned businesses.

  • Support for Black-owned businesses and communities
    • Mastercard announced its Strivers Initiative, a platform with the call to shop, share and support Black women-owned businesses in partnership with Jennifer Hudson, a grant program with Fearless Fund and an educational road show
    • UScellular held its annual art contest in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, with voting open this month
    • The LA Clippers are promoting local, Black-owned businesses across the city to celebrate the accomplishments of Black Americans
  • Longstanding commitment to people of color
    • Apple announced the launch of its “Entrepreneur Camp for Black Founders and Developers,” as part of its $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative
  • Educational content series and special celebration events
    • BET and Facebook Elevate partnered to debut “#GenBlack is Now,” a digital series of fireside chats that pair young Black entrepreneurs with notable Black-owned business leaders
    • TikTok will hold a virtual event with 500 Black creators on Feb. 26, featuring artist performances and special guest appearances
  • Limited collections
    • LIFEWTR introduced the limited-time bottle collection “Black Art Rising Series” featuring the artistic work of three Black purpose-led artists
    • An employee of the San Jose Sharks NHL team, who previously created a special Juneteenth shirt, designed a unique Black History Month jersey
Horizontal dividing line

Social Media Trends

Brands and Black History Month Feb 19 - Social Media Trends
(Photo credit: Jerry Mook Jones Jr.)

Over the past week, many of the most-talked-about BHM social posts have highlighted Black representation in the arts*. While Black voices have been at the forefront of countless artistic movements throughout U.S. history, Black artists are still underrepresented among artistic institutions. Trending social posts are now pointedly shedding light on Black creators and the value of BIPOC representation in the arts.

Trending examples:

  • A local story about a mural commemorating women of the Black Panthers saw national attention online
  • The MoMA saw strong engagement from art lovers on its post celebrating works from Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu, also featured in the museum’s series “Among Others: Blackness at MoMA”
  • The MLB continues to see strong engagements on social posts re-sharing artwork from Black artists commemorating iconic baseball players
  • Ulta Beauty is dedicating an entire social media series to Black artists that “celebrate who they are” during BHM

Consider ways your brand can reassess how you approach creative development internally. Make an intentional effort to uncover opportunities to feature and praise Black artists and creators within your organization.  


Other Trending Brands and Influencers with BHM Connections on Social Media (in the last 7 Days):

  • Abercrombie & Fitch: The clothing brand continues to receive online kudos for their racial justice/charitable clothing line
  • Disney: Star Wars Black History Month social post drew online criticism this week for having minimized Black characters in the past
  • Google: Their partnership with The Links, Inc. and Dress for Success to provide digital skills training to Black women is being celebrated online
  • Jessica Alba celebrated the third week of BHM by sharing some of her favorite Black-owned restaurants
  • LeBron James invited his fans to check out a documentary about his high school and the role it played in the civil rights movement
  • Activist Rachel Cargle’s instructional Black History Month series gained traction this week


*according to Spike Newswhip analysis of the last 7 days

(Photo credit: Jerry Mook Jones Jr.)
Horizontal dividing line

Influencers of Note

Brands and Black History Month Feb 19 - Influencers of Note
(Photo credit: Flossy Baby)

Jay Love (@FlossyBaby): As TikTok continues to grow, a new crop of content creators has risen to the top. Jay Love a.k.a. Floss Baby is a TikTok comedy queen whose videos continuously go viral due to her knack of keeping it real and relatable. FlossBaby has worked with CashApp and Chi-Chi’s Salsa who let her get creative and crafty with the content to produce high quality, engaging videos that resonate with Millennials and Gen-Z audiences.

Digital Brand Architects (DBA): DBA, an influencer marketing agency with which Ketchum Influencer and Talent teams frequently collaborate, announced they are launching the Mentor Program next month. This program will distribute access and resources for a class of up to 10 Black micro-influencers, helping them grow their online businesses and preparing them for further development and management. DBA is encouraging brand partners across digital and complementary platforms to participate alongside them to give mentees an enriched experience.

Horizontal dividing line

Analyzing the Conversation

Top Five Black History Month Searches on Google

Consumers searching Google about Black History Month want to know about the people and history of this commemorative moment in time. They’re also looking for famous quotes, as well as information on what the month is all about.

Top Five Black History Month Searches on Google: 1) black history month people (100); 2) history of black history month (89); 3) black history month 2021 (89); 4) black history month quotes (74); 5) what is black history month (57)

Source: Google Trends. Shows most popular search queries by users also searching for “Black History Month” between Feb. 1–Feb. 17, 2021.

Consider ways your brand can serve up customized content for your audience to educate them about the history and importance of BHM, as well as key players in the Black community from your industry or space. For inspiration, check out how this mom has helped her young daughter learn about and celebrate her Black history for the past three years by dressing up as influential Black figures.

Black History Month: Top Hashtags on Twitter

Unsurprisingly, #BlackHistoryMonth is the top hashtag for high-engaging BHM Twitter content. Close behind in popularity are #BHM, #BlackHistoryMonth2021 and #BLM. However, some interesting cultural trends are popping up in Tweets, including #28DaysofBlackCosplay, where people from the Black community are dressing up as their favorite pop-culture characters and snapping selfies to promote inclusion among cosplay fans. #Courtsidekaren was also trending early in the month after a verbal altercation between LeBron James and a fan got into an argument during a game, fueling the discussion about recognizing white privilege.

Black History Month: Top Hashtags on Twitter word cloud

Source: Talkwalker, analysis of high-engaging Twitter mentions in the U.S. related to Black History Month Feb. 1- Feb. 17, 2021

Want to receive a weekly round-up of Black History Month culture, content and conversations throughout February? Please fill out our contact form below and specify “Black History Month” in Comments.

See our previous content from February 5 and February 12.

Looking for guidance on how your company or brand should intersect with Black History Month? Contact your client director or get in touch with a Ketchum communications consultant.