Black History Month has a rich history dating back to 1915. It began as Negro History Week in 1926, and U.S. President Gerald R. Ford officially declared February to be Black History Month in 1976. The mission behind Black History Month has evolved but at the core has remained the same, which is to educate and highlight the achievements of Black persons throughout history. Additionally, Black History Month brings attention to all of the historic struggles and accomplishments that have shaped modern African American culture and people. What began as one week of education has now become an annual, month-long occasion that continues to enrich American lives.
Black History Month was originally the national Negro History Week. The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) sponsored the first form of the history week. Two men, Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland, founded the ASNLH in 1915. In 1926, the ASNLH established and promoted the first national Negro History Week. It would take place on the second week of February because the birthdays of both President Abraham Lincoln and Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass fall on that week. Teachers, scholars and everyday citizens answered this call for national recognition of Black history and culture, leading to vibrant events and school lessons.
The ideology behind Negro History Week was overarching. It wasn't just to commemorate Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, but also to recognize all Black persons who had contributed to society at large. And to help teachers and scholars promote Negro History Week, the ASNLH provided publications, school lessons and plays. This, in turn, helped educate the general public about all of the important achievements and contributions of the Black community.
Carter G. Woodson
The figure who was instrumental in the development of Black History Month is Carter G. Woodson, one of the founders of the ASNLH. He was a notable scholar who shaped the organization and the development of Negro History Week. Woodson, whose parents were former slaves, was one of the first Black people to graduate with a PhD from Harvard University. Throughout his lifetime, he published many books and worked hard to establish the acknowledgement of Black people's contributions to history and society.
Black History Month
Over time, the recognition and celebration of Negro History Week became commonplace in many cities. After the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the national Negro History Week was turned into a month-long celebration by various communities throughout the country. Finally, in 1976, President Ford officially declared February to be Black History Month.
Celebrating Black History Month
Organizations and foundations in every city across the country sponsor official events during Black History Month that continue to empower and educate the country on all of the achievements of Black persons throughout history. In addition, there are year-round opportunities for learning at notable museums, such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture. There, visitors can study important artifacts behind notable historical moments and individuals.