Celebrating Black History Month

February 1st, 2013

Today officially begins the annual celebration of Black History Month, when we as a nation set aside the month of February to celebrate contributions made by African Americans and to examine the legacy left by these civil rights leaders—for today and tomorrow. In the coming weeks, we’ll be using the opportunity to highlight some great teaching resources and primary sources you can use in your classroom to teach about Black History Month. But first, some history.

In September of 1915, historian Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland, a prominent minister, met in Chicago, Illinois, to found the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History to—according to its mission statement—”promote, research, preserve, interpret, and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture.” In 1926, the group chose the second week of February, which coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, to sponsor a national Negro History Week. Schools and clubs across the country hosted events, speeches, and performances that week in celebration of African American history and to bring attention to the injustices that African Americans still faced. 

The event became an annual one, growing in popularity, and by the late 1960s many mayors and towns across the country were celebrating it as an official holiday. In 1970, leaders of the Black United Students at Kent State University first celebrated Black History Month, and this expansion of the holiday was officially recognized six years later when President Gerald Ford noted that “in celebrating Black History Month, we can take satisfaction from [the] 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.” 

Since 1976, every American president has recognized February as Black History Month. 

Learn more about Black history with our free ebook, The Meaning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

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