February is celebrated as Black History Month in the United States because its precursor, Negro History Week, first sponsored in 1926, was held the second week in February in recognition of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas. From 1926 on, many cities across the country issued yearly proclamations recognizing Negro History Week, which evolved into Black History Month on several U.S. college campuses. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford called for the first nationally recognized Black History Month.
February has been designated Black History Month, also known as National African-American History Month, by every U.S. president since 1976. The month-long celebration recognizes the achievements of African-Americans in the arts, science, education and all aspects of American history. Each year Black History Month is built around a different theme, just as the early Negro History Weeks focused on a specific theme in order to draw public attention to the unique contributions and history of African-Americans in the United States.
The 2015 theme, A Century of Black Life, History and Culture, coincided with the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the organization responsible for the first Negro History Week. The organization, known today as the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, was founded by Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard University historian, and minister Jesse E. Moorland, in 1915.