The History of Black History Month
February is Black History Month, and it might surprise you to know that its history dates back to 1915, half a century after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States, according to history.com. That year, Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard University historian, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History to research and recognize the achievements of Black Americans and African descendants. Today, the organization is known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, or ASALH.
In 1926, the second week of February (which coincides with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, the latter of whom was a Black escaped slave who became a renowned public speaker and activist), ASALH sponsored National Negro History Week, which spurred schools and communities across the nation to organize similar celebrations and establish history clubs.
Eventually, mayors through the nation issued annual proclamations recognizing the week, and in the late 1960s, the event was renamed Black History Month. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized the month and asked the nation to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Since ’76, American presidents have provided an annual theme for Black History Month. The 2021 theme is Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.
The tri-color red, black and green Pan-African flag, adopted by the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League in 1920, is often seen surrounding Black History Month celebrations. According to Wikipedia, the red in the flag represents the blood that unites all people of Black African ancestry; the green symbolizes the abundant natural wealth of Africa; and the black represents Blacks whose “existence as a nation, though not a nation-state, is affirmed by the existence of the flag.”
To read more about the presidents and historical figures who helped in Black History Month’s evolution, as well as the black history milestones, visit www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month