What Is Black History Month?


Quick Answer

Black History Month celebrates the contributions made by African-Americans to the history of the United States. The U.S. observes National African-American History Month in February of each year.

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Full Answer

In 1915, historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which later became the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History. This organization inaugurated the first formal acknowledgement of African-Americans' place in U.S. history by designating the week that included February 12 as "Negro History Week" in 1926. This week was chosen because February 12 was President Abraham Lincoln's birthday, and February is the month of famed African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass' birthday.

In the late 1960s, the Black United Students at Kent State University voted to expand Black History Week into Black History Month. This designation expanded to other academic institutions in the early 1970s. In 1976, President Gerald Ford acknowledged the observance of Black History Month, and Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan continued that tradition.

In 1986, Congress passed a law officially designating February as Black History Month and called upon the president to recognize the designation with a proclamation encouraging Americans to observe it with appropriate ceremonies and activities. In 1996, the Senate passed a resolution recognizing Black History Month and the achievements of black senators. Since 1996, each President has issued proclamations recognizing Black History Month.

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