Menu Close

Did You Know? . . . The Origins of Black History Month

Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash

“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” -Isaiah 43:19a

Black History Month, celebrated this entire month, began as a single week in 1926 as the Negro History Movement. Its founder, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, was born to former slaves and is considered the Father of Black History. Dedicated to transforming race relations, he encouraged a gradual escalation of focusing on Black History. The initial week itself was an outgrowth of the Association for the Negro Life and History, started in 1915, also under Woodson’s leadership, which emphasized an intellectual approach to properly recognizing the black experience in this country. 
The original single week itself was dedicated to the contributions of two great Americans, both of whom were considered vital contributors to the ending of slavery: President Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Frederick Douglass. By coincidence, both had February birthdays. Dr. Woodson always emphasized that “history is made by its people” and desired that there be a “re-education” of the facts. While he looked forward to a more perfect time when there would be no need for a special celebration, realistically he worked for an expansion from one week to a full month. The lessons were just too important to be jammed into a single week.
Over time, a gradual expansion of the one-week celebration by African Americans began. By 1976, Dr. Woodson’s dream became a reality. President Gerald Ford proclaimed Black History Month an official national celebration, and every one of our presidents has honored it in a significant way ever since.  Dr. Woodson himself did not live to see this national celebration of the contributions of his people in building this great nation. He died in 1950 at the age of 75.