By Jesse J. Holland
ABOVE PHOTO: Wreaths from the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Wreath Laying Ceremony are pictured at The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. ( AP Picture/Jose Luis Magana)
Black Historical past Month is taken into account one of many nation’s oldest organized historical past celebrations, and has been acknowledged by U.S. presidents for many years by means of proclamations and celebrations. Right here is a few details about the historical past of Black Historical past Month.
How did Black Historical past Month begin?
It was Carter G. Woodson, a founding father of the Affiliation for the Examine of African American Historical past, who first got here up with the thought of the celebration that grew to become Black Historical past Month. Woodson, the son of not too long ago freed Virginia slaves, who went on to earn a Ph.D in historical past from Harvard, initially got here up with the thought of Negro Historical past Week to encourage Black People to turn into extra fascinated with their very own historical past and heritage. Woodson nervous that Black youngsters weren’t being taught about their ancestors’ achievements in American colleges within the early 1900s.
“If a race has no historical past, if it has no worthwhile custom, it turns into a negligible issue within the considered the world, and it stands in peril of being exterminated,” Woodson stated.
Why is Black Historical past Month in February?
Woodson selected February for Negro Historical past Week as a result of it had the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Lincoln was born on Feb. 12, and Douglass, a former slave who didn’t know his precise birthday, celebrated his on Feb. 14.
Daryl Michael Scott, a Howard College historical past professor and former ASAAH president, stated Woodson selected that week as a result of Black People had been already celebrating Lincoln’s and Douglass’s birthdays. With the assistance of Black newspapers, he promoted that week as a time to deal with African-American historical past as a part of the celebrations that had been already ongoing.
The primary Negro Historical past Week was introduced in February 1926.
“This was a neighborhood effort spearheaded by Woodson that constructed on custom, and constructed on Black institutional life and constructions to create a brand new celebration that was every week lengthy, and it took off like a rocket,” Scott stated.
Why the change from every week to a month?
Negro Historical past Week was wildly profitable, however Woodson felt it wanted extra.
Woodson’s authentic concept for Negro Historical past Week was for it to be a time for scholar showcases of the African-American historical past they realized the remainder of the yr, not as the one week Black historical past can be mentioned, Scott stated. Woodson later advocated beginning a Negro Historical past Yr, saying that in a college yr “a topic that receives consideration one week out of 36 is not going to imply a lot to anybody.”
Individually a number of locations, together with West Virginia within the Forties and Chicago within the Sixties, expanded the celebration into Negro Historical past Month. The civil rights and Black Energy motion advocated for an official shift from Black Historical past Week to Black Historical past Month, Scott stated, and, in 1976, on the fiftieth anniversary of the start of Negro Historical past Week, the Affiliation for the Examine of African American Historical past made the shift to Black Historical past Month.
Each president since Gerald R. Ford by means of Joe Biden has issued an announcement honoring the spirit of Black Historical past Month.
Ford first honored Black Historical past Week in 1975, calling the popularity “most applicable,” because the nation developed “a wholesome consciousness on the a part of all of us of achievements which have too lengthy been obscured and unsung.” The subsequent yr, in 1976, Ford issued the primary Black Historical past Month commemoration, saying with the celebration “we will seize the chance to honor the too-often uncared for accomplishments of Black People in each space of endeavor all through our historical past.”
President Jimmy Carter added in 1978 that the celebration “offers for all People an opportunity to rejoice and categorical delight in a heritage that provides a lot to our lifestyle.” President Ronald Reagan stated in 1981 that “understanding the historical past of Black People is a key to understanding the energy of our nation.”