Origin of Black History Month

Jan. 30, 2019
Origin of Black History Month

February marks Black History Month, a month-long observation that highlights the accomplishments of African-Americans. However, before we celebrate, we must learn the history behind Black History Month, starting with its founder: Dr. Carter G. Woodson.  

Known as the "Father of Black History Month," Dr. Carter G. Woodson was born on December 19, 1875 in New Canton, Virginia.

Son of former slaves, Woodson grew up extremely poor and had to work in mines in order to financially support his family. At the age of 20, he enrolled in Douglass High School where he graduated two years earlier than his colleagues. After graduating, he attended several universities, while teaching on the side. 

In 1912, Woodson became the second African-American in history to receive his Ph.D from Harvard University. A few years later, in 1915, Woodson along with his colleagues George Cleveland Hall, William D. Hartgrove, Alexander L. Jackson, and James E. Stamps founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in Washington D.C. 

In 1926, the ASALH created Negro History Week to showcase African-Americans achievements and encourage others to learn more about black history. To honor Abraham Lincoln's and Frederick Douglass' birthdays, Woodson launched Negro History Week on the second week of February. 

Credit: Google/Shannon Wright

Woodson kept publishing articles on the contributions of African Americans and advocating for a black history month until his death in 1950. Nearly twenty years later, on February 1, 1969, Black students and professors from Kent State University extended Black History Week to a month-long celebration. 

In 1976, President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month as a national observance. 

What began as Dr. Carter G. Woodson's initiative to encourage historians to shed light on once neglected history has become a tradition and a way to recognize the role African Americans had in shaping the country to what it is today.

If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.
— Dr. Carter G. Woodson

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