Black History Month, also referred to as African-American History Month in the US, is celebrated annually in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada for the remembrance of both the significant events in Black history and the influential people of African descent. It’s celebrated in February in the United States and Canada, and October in the United Kingdom.
Black History Month started in 1926 as an annual week-long celebration known as Negro History Week, established to enhance education about the America’s Black history. By 1929, it had spread nationwide. The support from different parts of the country was enormous.
In 1969, the leaders of Kent State University’s Black United Students came together and proposed the month-long celebration that occurred a year later in February 1970. In 1976, the Black History Month was officially recognized by US government.
Since then, Americans have celebrated Black History Month every February to commemorate the achievements of African-Americans throughout history. Over the last forty years, blacks have made tremendous progress on many fronts, including representation in Congress and educational attainment. Yet huge racial gaps still exist in areas such as poverty and wealth. There are also concerns about the state of race relations in the country.
Black History Month triggers an annual debate about the fairness and continued usefulness of a specific month designated to the history of a single race.
There has been a lot of criticism with some questioning the idea of confining the celebration of black history to one month. They argue that it would have been better to integrate black history into the mainstream education throughout the year.
Held February every year, the celebration pays tribute to the many generations of black people who struggled with adversity. It acts a constant reminder of the history of the African-Americans.
From the brave defiance of injustice to the ingenuity of brilliant scientists and inventors, African-Americans have made an enormous contribution to the country. Now, we would like to share with you interesting facts about Black History Month. Hope you enjoy and learn something!
1. Carter G. Woodson, an African-American journalist, author, and historian, is considered the founder of the observance. He was the son of the former enslaved Africans James Henry Woodson, a sharecropper and Eliza Riddle Woodson.
He earned a master’s degree at the University of Chicago in 1908, and then he got his Ph.D. in history from Harvard in 1912. Woodson, popularly known as the “Father of Black History” came up with Negro History week in 1926 that later became Black History Month.
In 1926, he announced that they would celebrate “Negro History Week” in the second week of February. They chose this week because it coincided with the birthday of Frederick Douglass (February 14) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12).
2. On February 10th, 1964, United States Congress passed the most far-reaching civil rights legislation: The Civil Rights Act of 1964. The legislation barred local governments, public facilities or state from denying access to anyone due to ethnic origin or race. Under this Act, segregation in schools also became illegal and subject to lawsuits.
3. The leaders of the Black United Students at Kent State University were the first proposed the expansion of Black History Week to Black History Month in February 1969. One year later, the first celebration of Black History Month was held at Kent State. As part of the US Bicentennial, United States government officially recognized the expansion of Negro History Week to Black History Month.
Speaking about this recognition, President Gerald Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
4. In 1986, Congress passed the Public Law 99-244 designating February 1986 as “National Black (African-American) History Month.”
The law noted that February 1, 1986, would “mark the beginning of the sixtieth annual public and private salute to Black History.” In addition, the law called upon the President to issue a proclamation calling on all Americans to observe February 1986 as Black History Month with the proper ceremonies and activities.
Since 1975, all U.S. Presidents have always issued a proclamation for the celebration, though different administrations have often changed the names: Black History Week (1975), Black History Month (1976), National Afro-American (Black) History Month (1978), African-American History Month (1992), and National African-American History Month (1993).