Short History of Kwanzaa

In this short essay I am going to discuss the history of Kwanzaa. I am going to briefly discuss how Kwanzaa came about, and how it is traditionally practiced.

Kwanzaa is a non-religious African American holiday that emphasizes family, culture, and community. In

1966 Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of African American Studies, at the University of California, Long Beach, wanted to find a way to bring African Americans together as a community. He started to research traditional African harvest celebrations, particularly Karenga. Karenga combines harvest celebrations from several different tribes, such as those from the Ashanti and Zulu tribe. The name Kwanzaa is taken from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” which means first fruits.

Kwanzaa is celebrated over the seven days between Christmas and New Years. While every family celebrates Kwanzaa a little bit differently, most partake in traditional dances, music, literature and a large traditionally African meal. At the end of each of the seven nights a child lights a candle on the Kinara, a candle stick that holds seven candles, while the family discusses one of the Nguzo Saba’s. Nguzo Saba means seven principles in Swahili. The seven principles are unity, self-determination, responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. The center candle is the only black candle and is lit the first night; it represents unity which is part of the main basis that Kwanzaa is built on.

Kwanzaa is a very important part of African Americans embracing their culture and a way to bring the community together in celebration of their roots.