February is Black History Month, a time for Americans to reflect on the cultural contributions African Americans have made to the United States. Some may be wondering how Black History Month became an official celebration. And why is it celebrated in February? Here’s the scoop.
Most history experts give credit to Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950). Woodson is commonly referred to as the father of black history. Carter led a challenging but amazing life. At the age of 19, he entered high school and completed his studies in two years. He then studied Greek and Latin, while working in a mine shaft. Eventually, he went to the University of Chicago, and finally got his PhD from Harvard University.
But what does that have to do with Black History Month? After founding the Journal of Negro History, Woodson was instrumental (read: it wouldn’t have happened without him) in organizing “Negro History Week.” Woodson chose a week in February as a way to honor the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln, who abolished slavery, and Frederick Douglass, the iconic civil rights activist.
Negro History Week became Black History Month during the 1960s. “No other single thing,” Woodson said, “has done so much to dramatize the achievement of persons of African blood.” According to AppalachianHistory.net, Woodson often remarked that “he hoped the time would come when Negro History Week would be unnecessary; when all Americans would willingly recognize the contributions of black Americans as a legitimate and integral part of the history of this country.”
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