The History of Black History Month


Black History Month Text graphic found on Pixabay.

February in the United States is Black History Month, but why does America celebrate Black history at this specific time, and what purpose does it serve?


The first concept for a celebration of Black history came in 1926 when Carter Goodson, known as “The Father of Black History,” and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, an organization that sought to preserve Black history and culture, created Negro History Week. The goal was to celebrate Black history and shine a spotlight on under-represented figures and events important to Black communities and make Black history a “serious area of study.”

Why February?

The original Negro History Week coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Lincoln is best known for his Emancipation Proclamation, which freed enslaved people living in the Southern states. Douglass was a former slave who was a prominent abolitionist voice during the Civil War era. The second week of February therefore, came to be a time when many African Americans would hold celebrations in honor of emancipation, and the month itself came to be significant in Black communities.
As calls for social and racial justice grew in the 1960s, universities began to officially observe Negro History Week and eventually Black History Month

Official US Observance

In 1976, during the nation’s 200 year anniversary, President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month. Ford called upon all Americans to recognize and honor the contributions made by Black Americans and their ancestors.

Notable contributions

These achievements and contributions are all too often overlooked and underappreciated, from the innumerable inventions and literary works which were hidden away or outright stolen, to the cultural contributions of Black musicians and artists, which to this day have a massive impact on the arts and music. The immortal cells of Henrietta Lacks, unceremoniously stolen from her body without her consent, have saved countless lives and accelerated the field of cancer research. Frederick Douglass worked to end slavery in the United States and Katherine Johnson’s mathematics, helped to, literally, propel the United States into space. The list goes on and on, and it is clear that not recognizing these achievements and contributions would be a great disservice to all Americans, regardless of ethnicity.