A BRIEF HISTORY OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH
February 1st marks the start of Black History Month, a nationwide celebration of African American culture, achievement, and progress toward social equality. It’s celebrated in schools, museums, community centers, churches and the media. While we may take the existence of this annual acknowledgement of the contributions Americans of African descent to our country’s greatness for granted today…Black History Month was not always on the calendar.
The celebration of Black History Month began as “Negro History Week” in 1926. This ground-breaking celebration was created by Carter G. Woodson, a noted African American historian, scholar, educator, and publisher. It was decided that Negro History Week would occur the second week in February of that year. This week was chosen because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and of Frederick Douglass on February 14, both of which black communities had celebrated together since the late 19th century.
Negro History Week’s purpose, from the beginning, was to ensure the legacy of African American culture within our national society through the teaching of black history. As founder Woodson explained, “If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.
The first Negro History Week prompted the creation of black history clubs, as well as an increase in interest among educators, legislators, historians, and progressive whites. Negro History Week steadily grew in popularity throughout the following decades, with mayors across the United States endorsing it as a city holiday.
Black History Month was first proposed by black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. The very first celebration of a Black History Month took place at Kent State one year later, in February 1970. Six years later, Black History Month was being celebrated all across the country in educational institutions and community centers, when President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month, during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial in 1976.
Since then, Black History Month has continued to grow in popularity, and scope. Each February reminds us that our nation’s diverse population is a precious resource which must be protected and honored. Let’s celebrate!
Please share with us how you like to celebrate Black History Month in the comments section below.