“Celebrating Black History Month”
As we join the rest of the country in celebrating Black History Month, we want to share with you a brief history of the purpose and how this celebration began.
In 1915, historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson, often referred to as the Father of Black History, started a movement to acknowledge and celebrate the unacknowledged contributions of African Americans. Eleven years later, the second week of February was designated as Negro History Week to acknowledge the birth dates of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln.
The popularity of Negro History Week spread and soon, demand outgrew supply. Dying in 1950, Woodson did not live to see the once weekly event evolve into a month-long exploration of Black excellence.
Fast forward to the 1960s when Black colleges and universities banded together to ensure that African Americans secured their rightful place in history, the movement for a formal acknowledgement again gained momentum. First celebrated in 1970 at Ohio’s Kent State University, Black History Month soon spread to other colleges and universities.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford became the first president to recognize and formalize the observance. With every president after following suit, Black History Month became a permanent staple in American history. Other countries across the globe have their own celebrations.
Now, Black History Month not only serves as a time to spread awareness of Black historical figures, but to celebrate the accomplishments of Black people in the present. As America witnesses the attempted erasure of Black bodies, rights and civil liberties, it becomes even more important to ensure the continued success of the celebration of accomplishments.
In an effort to specifically recognize Black women who made a contribution to society, President Bill Clinton signed the Presidential Proclamation 6863. Highlighting individuals such as Sojourner Truth and Mary McLeod Bethune, the proclamation was the first of its kind.
Since then, each president annually issues a decree during Black History Month to honor Black achievement in specific areas. During his 2016 remarks for the Black History Month Reception, President Barack Obama said that he hopes to use Black history celebrations to serve as a reminder of progression.
A celebration that should be year-round, African Americans continue adding a sense of luxury to American history through the prism of Blackness. From the first Black president, vice president and First Lady, to scores of Black athletes and prominent Black figures, Black History Month will continue to provide a space of recognition and celebration.
Black History Month is also celebrated in the United Kingdom (1987), Germany (1990), Canada (1995), the Republic of Ireland (2010), France (2018), and Africa (2020). It is celebrated during the month of October in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.