For decades, our country has set aside the month of February to reflect upon the value of Black voices across our communities – officially known as Black History Month. Delve a little deeper into the history of how the month-long celebration began.
Black History Month dates back to 1915, when Carter G. Woodson created an organization called the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). Now known as the “Father of Black History,” Woodson initiated the first Negro History Week in February 1926, which encompassed the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The response to celebrating and raising awareness of Black history was overwhelming: Black history clubs were established, teachers clamored for materials to teach their students and progressive philanthropists endorsed the effort.
In 1976, the celebration was extended to a month. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to, “Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” That year set into motion the ASNLH’s first Black History Month, 50-years after the first celebration.
Today, in addition to Black History Month highlighting important historical figures, the celebration has culminated into an educational tool that teaches multitudes about Black history, celebrates the achievement of Black people as a race, and recognizes that Blacks have been part of the history of this country since 1619, when the first enslaved people were brought to America.
“Black history is American history,” wrote Texas A&M University Afro-American history professor Albert Broussard. “That’s why it is so important to recognize this month by learning more about Black history through books, articles, or taking a Black history course. There is no excuse to not learn more about Black history or quite frankly the history of any group. There’s a wealth of material out there to choose and learn from, you just have to be self-motivated to do it.”