Black History Month, observed every February, celebrates the contributions and central role of African Americans throughout US history. President Gerald Ford was the first to officially recognize what is also called African American Month in 1976. However, the idea was the brainchild of American historian and author Dr. Carter G. Woodson.
In 1915, Woodson and Jesse Moorland, an educator and minister, founded what is now called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). Its mission was to educate the nation about the history, sacrifices, and achievements of African Americans and people of African heritage.
To share his love for Black history with students, Woodson initiated Negro History Week on February 12, 1926. The historian chose the second week of February because it includes the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln (February 12), who abolished slavery, and civil rights activist Frederick Douglass (February 14).
The idea was extremely successful. Educators countrywide soon began asking for suitable instruction materials for their students. This prompted Woodson and the ASALH to create appropriate lesson plans and classroom posters. They were centered around an annual theme.
By the time Woodson died in 1950, Negro History Week had become an annual event in schools across the country. In the 1960s, the observance became increasingly known as Black History Week. In 1976, the ASALH officially changed the name and also made it a month-long celebration.
Today, Black History Month is one of the most important cultural heritage months on the American calendar. Schools mark the occasion by highlighting the accomplishments of prominent African Americans like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as well as lesser-known individuals. The extensive list includes Madam C.J. Walker, the first Black self-made millionaire, Hiram Revels, the first African American US senator, and George Carver, who developed over 300 new uses for peanuts.
Museums and public libraries also host special events centered around the annual theme. In 2024, the month is dedicated to "African Americans and the Arts." It honors African American artists — poets, writers, visual artists, and dancers — who have made a difference through their work.
Happy Black History Month!
Resources: History.com, Wikipedia.org