A Short History of Kwanzaa

For many Americans, Christmas is the main focus for the holiday season in December, leaving Hanukah and Kwanzaa off to the side.  And for a lot of people, little is known about Kwanzaa, because there aren’t any Kwanzaa themed holiday specials on T.V., no celebrations, or arts and crafts in school for it (at least not for most schools), and there are not very many community events based on Kwanzaa, like lighting of the Christmas tree in the town center, etc.  So here are a few facts we’ve collected about the history of Kwanzaa and what it stands for to celebrate it:


  1. Kwanzaa was created by Maulana Karenga in 1966 to be the first African-American holiday specifically made for African-Americans to celebrate  themselves as a community and their history.  It is a celebration that has roots in the black-nationalist movement of the 1960’s.
  2. Kwanzaa’s name derives from the Swahili language, and the phrase, “Matunda ya kwanza” meaning “first fruits of the harvest”.  Even though Swahili is an East African language, which were not involved in the Atlantic Slave Trade, it was chosen as a symbol for Pan-Africanism.
  3. Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States, and within the Western African Diaspora of other nations.  Most African-American who celebrate Kwanzaa, celebrate in addition to Christmas.
  4. Each day of the week has a theme, and has a philosophy to go with it. This helps with caring and protecting the African Heritage community. The seven day’s theme are:
  • Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.


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