Begin a transforming journey with us in Great February, as we celebrate Black History Month not only in February, but throughout 2024. The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History was co-founded in 1915 by historian Carter G. Woodson in response to the dearth of public knowledge on the achievements of Black people. In order to honor the achievements made by African Americans to American history, the group established “Negro History Week” during the second week of February in 1926. Prior to the establishment of Black History Week, very few individuals studied Black history and it was not covered in textbooks.
This particular week was selected due to the fact that it coincides with the birthdays of two notable figures in American history: former president Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. During the Civil War, which was mostly fought over Black people’s enslavement in the nation, President Lincoln commanded the United States. The week following its formation, a lot of authorities and schools started to recognize it.
Black History Month Origins
When U.S. President Gerald Ford extended the recognition to “honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history,” the week-long celebration became officially recognized as Black History Month in 1976. Since then, February has been designated as Black History Month in the United States.
The story of Black History Month begins in 1915, half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States.
That September, the Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by Black Americans and other peoples of African descent.
Known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the group sponsored a national Negro History week in 1926, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The event inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs and host performances and lectures.
Since 1976, every American president has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme.
The Black History Month 2024 theme, “African Americans and the Arts,” explores the key influence African Americans have had in the fields of “visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression.”
Why February is called as Black History Month?
“Feb is Black History Month.” Since the 1970s that familiar declaration has introduced countless celebrations of African American history and achievement, from Black History Minutes on local television stations to the pronouncements of U.S. presidents. But why is Feb designated as the month to commemorate African American history?
The answer lies with eminent American historian Carter G. Woodson, who pioneered the field of African American studies in the early 20th century. Inspired by having attended a three-week national celebration of the 50th anniversary of emancipation in 1915, Woodson joined four others in founding the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) to encourage scholars to engage in the intensive study of the Black past, a subject that had long been sorely neglected by academia and in U.S. schools.
In 1916 Woodson began editing the association’s principal scholarly publication, The Journal of Negro History. In 1924, spurred on by Woodson, his college fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, introduced Negro History and Literature Week. Two years later, determined to bring greater attention to African American history, Woodson and the ASNLH launched Negro History Week in Feb1926.
Lincoln, Douglass Tribute
Feb is the birth month of two figures who loom large in the Black past: U.S. President Abraham Lincoln (born February 12), who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and African American abolitionist, author, and orator Frederick Douglass (born Feb 14). Since the deaths of Lincoln and Douglass (in 1865 and 1895, respectively), the Black community had celebrated their contributions to African American liberation and civil rights on their birthdays.
By rooting Negro History Week in Feb, Woodson sought to both honor the inestimable legacy of Lincoln and Douglass and to expand an already existent celebration of the Black past to include not only the accomplishments of these two great individuals but also the history and achievements of Black people in general.
As early as the 1940s, some communities had transformed Feb into Negro History Month. With the ascendance of the American civil rights movement and the rise of Black consciousness in the 1960s, Negro History Week had become Black History Month in more and more places.
In 1976 the association that Woodson had founded (later renamed the Association for the Study of African American Life and History) facilitated the widespread institutionalization of February as Black History Month, and U.S. President Gerald Ford urged Americans to participate in its observance. All subsequent presidents would do the same, sometimes referring to the event as National Afro-American (Black) History Month or National African American History Month.
WHAT IT HONORS
Black History Month was intended to highlight the accomplishments of African Americans to the United States. It recognizes all Black people throughout American history, from the earliest enslaved individuals carried over from Africa in the early 17th century to African Americans living in the United States today.
Among the notable figures often spotlighted during Black History Month are Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought for equal rights for Blacks during the 1950s and ’60s; Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American justice appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1967; Mae Jemison, who became the first female African-American astronaut to travel to space in 1992; and Barack Obama, who was elected the first African-American president of the United States in 2008.