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The History of Black History Month

By Shay Sargent, HRHS Freshman

February 2022

The origins of Black History Month began when Dr. Carter G. Woodson traveled to Chicago to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. It was a three-week event that inspired Woodson to form an organization to promote Black history called the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. After pushing those who had read his published book “The Journal of Negro History” and Black civic organizations to promote Black history, they responded with the creation of Negro History and Literature Week, which was later renamed Negro Achievement Week. But Woodson desired a greater impact, so the ASNLH sent out a press release announcing Nergo History week in February of 1926.

It is said that Woodson chose February because the birthdays of two great Americans who played a role in shaping Black History were in February. Those two people were Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, whose birthdays were the 12th and 14th. Since Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, the black community had been celebrating his birthday, and since the 1890s, Black communities had been celebrating Douglass. Though Woodson admired the men, he believed that history was made by the people, not simply by great men. He believed that the black community should focus on the countless Black men and women who had contributed to the advancement of human civilization.

With Negro History Week appearing across the country in schools and before the public, the 1920s was the decade of the New Negro. It was called the decade of the New Negro because the black community was now proud of that name. In the 1940s, efforts to expand the study of Black History in schools were slowly being made. As of the early 1940s, Black people in West Virginia began to celebrate February as Negro History Month. Black History Month was beginning to replace Negro History Week at a fast pace, and in 1976, fifty years after the first celebration of Negro History Week, it became Black History Month and was offically recognized by the government. Since then, every President has issued proclamations endorsing the Association’s annual theme.