In the United States and Canada, February is officially recognized as Black History Month. Since we at the blog like to celebrate all sorts of things, we’re going to use this opportunity to devote the (rest of the) month to talking about some great Americans who have helped shape the country. Please feel free to submit something as part of our celebration.
But first, a little history behind Black History Month:
Black History Month grew out of Negro History Week which was established by Carter Woodson in 1926.
Woodson, the son of former slaves, worked in the coal mines of Kentucky until he enrolled in high school at the age of twenty. He went on earn a Ph.D from Harvard University, and publish many scholarly articles and books. During his studies, Woodson was disappointed to find that American history books almost completely neglected the contributions of black Americans.
To ameliorate this problem, Woodson established Negro History Week with the strong belief that blacks should be proud and empowered by their history, and that other Americans should recognize the contributions of blacks to American history. He choose the second week in February because it included Fredrick Douglass’ and President Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays. This week built on the work of other black organizations that had been working for greater recognition of the contribution of blacks to American history.
Woodson envisioned the week as a period of lectures, educational discussions, debates, performances, and other events that would serve to educate all Americans. Negro History Week was embraced immediately by black communities, and within twenty-five years, it was a well-established national commemoration, endorsed by government officials and celebrated in schools across the country. In 1976, the week was expanded to a month.
The celebration of Black History Month has not been without its detractors. Some argue that black history should be celebrated all year, not just in February. Others complain that black history is American history. Both of these ideas are valid and in fact, Woodson looked forward to the day when Black History Month would no longer be necessary; when American history books would tell the complete history of the country.