- Black History Month is celebrated during the month of February in the United States and Canada.
- The first organized observance of Black history in the United States occurred in 1926 and was called “Negro History Week.”
- Dr. Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History spearheaded the establishment of Negro History Week to highlight and bring attention to the contributions of Black people throughout American history, contributions that had been largely ignored.
- Dr. Woodson chose the second week of February because it included the (reported) birth dates of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, two men whose lives had greatly impacted Black Americans and whose birthdays had historically been celebrated in Black communities.
- In 1976, as part of the United States Bicentennial Celebration, the United States officially recognized the expansion of Negro History Week to Black History Month.
Why We Still Need Black History Month – Then and Now:
“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.” – Dr. Carter G. Woodson
“In the Bicentennial year of our Independence, we can review with admiration the impressive contributions of black Americans to our national life and culture.
One hundred years ago, to help highlight these achievements, Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. We are grateful to him today for his initiative, and we are richer for the work of his organization.
Freedom and the recognition of individual rights are what our Revolution was all about. They were ideals that inspired our fight for Independence: ideals that we have been striving to live up to ever since. Yet it took many years before ideals became a reality for black citizens.
The last quarter-century has finally witnessed significant strides in the full integration of black people into every area of national life. In celebrating Black History Month, we can take satisfaction from this recent progress in the realization of the ideals envisioned by our Founding Fathers. But, even more than this, we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.
I urge my fellow citizens to join me in tribute to Black History Month and the message of courage and perseverance it brings to all of us.”
“President Gerald R. Ford’s Message on the Observance of Black History Month” February 10, 1976. Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum. University of Texas.
“America’s greatness is a testament to generations of courageous individuals who, in the face of uncomfortable truths, accepted that the work of perfecting our nation is unending and strived to expand the reach of freedom to all. For too long, our most basic liberties had been denied to African Americans, and today, we pay tribute to countless good-hearted citizens — along the Underground Railroad, aboard a bus in Alabama, and all across our country — who stood up and sat in to help right the wrongs of our past and extend the promise of America to all our people.
During National African American History Month, we recognize these champions of justice and the sacrifices they made to bring us to this point, we honor the contributions of African Americans since our country’s beginning, and we recommit to reaching for a day when no person is judged by anything but the content of their character.“
Dr. Woodson believed that the study and celebration of the history of Black Americans would serve a dual purpose–1)Black people would be able to withstand the assaults of white supremacy and be inspired to continue the struggle for full equality and 2) White people would no longer be able to justify their oppression of Black people on the basis of the supposed superiority of White people.
We have not yet achieved those goals; therefore, the need for Black History Month continues.