Black History Month

carter woodsonFebruary 1 marks the first day of Black History Month. Black History Month was created in 1926 in the United States, when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.”This week was chosen because it marked the birthday of both Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass.abraham lincoln

From the event’s initial phase, primary emphasis was placed on encouraging the coordinated teaching of the history of American blacks in the nation’s public schools.  Despite this far from universal acceptance, the event was nevertheless regarded by Woodson as “one of the most fortunate steps ever taken by the Association,” and plans for a repeat of the event on an annual basis continued quickly.

Frederick DouglassAt the time of Negro History Week’s launch Woodson contended that the teaching of black history was essential to ensure the physical and intellectual survival of the race within broader society:

“If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”

By 1929 The Journal of Negro History was able to note that with only two exceptions officials with the State Departments of Educations of “every state with considerable Negro population” had made the event known to that state’s teachers and distributed official literature associated with the event.” Churches also played a significant role in the distribution of literature in association with Negro History Week during this initial interval, with the pages of the mainstream and black press aiding in the publicity effort.

The expansion of Black History Week to Black History Month was first proposed by the leaders of the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. The first celebration of the Black History Month took place at Kent State one year later, in February 1970.

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