Friday Photo History: Celebrating Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday that celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated from December 26 through January 1, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits" in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language.

This is a photo from the museum's own Kwanzaa collection of photographs. This photo is from 1990 and was taken at a Kwanzaa celebration at the museum. In this photo a man in traditional garb (black, red, and green are the traditional colors) lights the seven Kwanzaa candles for two young children. These seven candles represent the seven principles of Kwanzaa: Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. The black candle is lit first on the first day of the celebration. The remaining candles are lit afterward from left to right on the following days.  Kwanzaa information courtesy of the Official Kwanzaa Website (

Collection: Kwanzaa; Date: 1990.  Photograph courtesy of the Collections and Exhibitions department of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (  Research, caption and scanning by Derek Thomas Sojda.  For more information please contact the Louise Lovett Wright Library and Robert L. Hurst Research Center at (313) 494-5840 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  For this and other informative posts, please visit  Image and content copyright Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, all rights reserved.