Why Do We Celebrate Black History Month?

When President Gerald Ford established Black History Month in 1976, he stated that it was to celebrate the often neglected accomplishments of African Americans throughout the country’s history. The month grew out of a movement to promote the teaching of African American history.

The roots of Black History Month lie in the creation of Negro History Week by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1925. People first observed the event in February of 1926 during the week of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays. Over time, the celebration gradually became officially supported by the mayors of a number of American cities. The federal government formally adopted the occasion and expanded it to the entire month of February in 1976.

Teachers often use the month to focus on aspects of African American history in their classes. The era of slavery and the Civil Rights movement are common topics of discussion. Major figures in these movements often discussed include Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.

Some cities hold a formal event to celebrate the month. One example of this is the annual Black History Month Kickoff in San Francisco, which is generally held during the first week of February.