Target has expanded its Black History Month collection, including items from Black-owned businesses and those designed by winners from the retailer's inaugural Historically Black Colleges and Universities Design Challenge.

The products, many curated by Target's in-house design team, are being sold across the store this month from apparel and home to beauty items.

It is the largest assortment the Minneapolis-based retailer has ever featured for Black History Month, and the collection of more than 100 products is available online and at 1,400 stores. In 2019, only about 700 stores carried the collection.

"This month is an opportunity to really honor the past and the journey of our ancestors, while celebrating the present and manifesting and investing in Black futures," said Flora Ekpe-Idang, Target senior brand marketing manager, in a company blog post.

Ekpe-Idang, who is Black, is one of several Target employees who helped with the Black History Month collection.

Many of the products featured in the Black History Month assortment are available year-round, but some apparel and accessories items are only available for a limited time, she said.

Items range from Barbie collector dolls of prominent Black women like Maya Angelou and Rosa Parks; calendar and stationery from local Black illustrator Jena Holliday of Spoonful of Faith; and a "They Go Low We Go High" sweatshirt commemorating the words of former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Kalilah Wright, founder of MESS in a Bottle, which packages T-shirts in reusable bottles, said she feels honored to partner with Target to sell her apparel.

"My grandmother migrated to America over 50 years ago with a hope and many dreams," Wright said in a statement. "She worked for others all her life to help bring her family to America. Me being in Target is representation of my grandmother's dream she wanted to accomplish when coming to this country."

Target has steadily expanded its network of diverse suppliers. Between 2016 and 2018, Target increased its business with diverse suppliers by nearly 65%. Many of Target's diversity efforts can be easily found in its beauty aisles which feature a growing wider range of products made by Black-owned companies such as Shea Moisture.

This month, Target is hosting activities including a business fair designed to give Black-founded and -owned — as well as female-owned businesses — the opportunity to virtually network with Target buyers, and sourcing and supplier diversity employees, Ekpe-Idang said.

Last year, as a result of race-relations discussions that began in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, Target established its Racial Equity Action and Change committee (REACH) of senior leaders across Target. As part of its mission to drive lasting impact for Black employees and customers, the group pledged to help advance Black businesses with access to Target's resources and also to source and design more products from Black creators.

The newly reopened Lake Street store in Minneapolis was the first of nearly 1,900 Target stores last year to begin to carry the Black Excellence clothing line designed by Minneapolis barber and apparel creator Houston White.

Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495

Twitter: @nicolenorfleet