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The Origin of Black History Month

The story of (Negro) Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, begins in 1915, half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States.  In 1926 Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-trained historian, and other prominent leaders founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by Black Americans and other peoples of African descent.    Dr. Woodson chose the second week of February because it coincided with the birthday of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.   The event inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs and host performances and lectures detailing the experience of the Black population in America.


By the late 1960s, thanks in part to the Civil Rights Movement and a growing awareness of Black identity; Negro History Week had evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses.  President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to ‘seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.’


Since then, every American president has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme.  The 2013 theme:  At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality.  The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington mark the 150th and 50th anniversaries of two pivotal events of African-American history.


Black History Month sparks an annual debate about the continued usefulness and fairness of a designated month dedicated to the history of one race.  Many people hold concerns about Black history being delegated to a single month and the “hero worship” of some of the historical figures often recognized.  Perhaps Black history month need no longer be observed once Black history fully becomes AMERICAN history.



Submitted by:   Doris B. McCoy – 434-352-2356 

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