“If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”
Carter G. Woodson, the accredited founder of Black History Month.
The beginning of Black History Month:
Woodson, a 20th-century academic, wanted to preserve a month of remembrance: to respect the traditions and cultures of past African Americans and to honor those people who contributed to the important history of African Americans.
Woodson graduated with his master’s in history from the University of Chicago and earned a Ph.D. from Harvard.
Through his academic years, Woodson noticed history textbooks neglected to include African Americans’ history in the United States.
As a result, he established The Journal of Negro History in 1916, in which he and other scholars set forth to write about scientific markings and achievements of those of African descent.
In addition to preserving African American history, this effort fought against misconceptions and strengthened the African American community through common historical knowledge, celebrations, traditions and interests.
In response to growing pride among African Americans, Woodson teamed up with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1926 to declare the second week of February Negro History Week.
February was selected as the month because both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born during this month. Both men had made great strides for African American freedom and equality, and many people had already begun celebrating their birthdays as important parts of African American social movements.
Although certain cities had already begun observing the month of February in honor of African American history, in 1976, President Gerald Ford officially declared Black History Month a national observance.
Ninety-one years after the first unofficial celebration of African American history, and 42 years after the first presidential declaration of Black History Month, we celebrate Black History Month this year.
Check out these links for more on Black History Month:
Every week in February, a Western Front reporter will discuss a person or event important to black history in recognition of Black History Month.