Before It Even Get’s Started: Intro to Black History Month

The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are

-Maya Angelou

We are one week away from the beginning of Black History month. This is a month dedicated to acknowledging the African-Americans who have made an impact on America as a whole. This a time to gain knowledge and really learn where we come from. Being an African-American woman, it is very important for me to learn my heritage. It is imperative that I know and understand the sacrifices that those before me made. It is really imperative that I understand the significance of Black History Month and be able to share my knowledge with others. With that being said, I’ll introduce you to a little history of the meaning of the true reason for Black History Month.

So while we know on the surface that February is Black History Month, do we really know why this month was chosen? Well, Black History wasn’t always celebrated for the whole month. You see, back in 1926, Carter G Woodson created Black History week, which was dedicated to celebrating the achievements of many African Americans and their impact on the United States. That week also happened to be right around the time President Abraham Lincoln celebrated his birthday, which was in, you guessed it, February. The other well-known names in Black History who celebrated their birthday’s in February include Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass. It was decided that black history week would take place on the second week in February since President Lincoln’s birthday was the 12th of the month and Mr. Douglass’ birthday was the 14th.

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When Mr. Woodson created Black History week, this gave blacks a platform to rise from. Mr. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History put heavy pressure on the Department of Education to teach Black History to students in school. Of course, this was met with a mediocre response and was accepted by only four states. The four states include North Caroline, Baltimore, West Virginia, and Washington, DC. In the coming weeks, Black History week would spark a major change in the education system and teachers worldwide. Leaders from organizations all over learned about these teachings. Churches and schools starting printing literature for black history week and incorporating it into their teachings. With it’s progressive interests, mayors across the United States were considering endorsing black history week as a holiday. Talk about really making an impact on American History. Imagine having a holiday that consisted of a whole week. That would be pretty awesome!

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With such an enthusiastic response from the press and progressive whites, this pushed students at Kent University to propose that Black History week be celebrated the whole month of February. In 1969, Black United Students at Kent University proposed this idea, and the first celebration of Black History month took place in 1970 at Kent University. In 1976, President Ford recognized the expansion of Black History week to Black History Month. He stated “I urge Americans to seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Black History Month has been celebrated for many decades, and it’s concept has been widely adopted. The United Kingdom celebrated Black History Month in 1987 followed by Canada in 1995. The teaching of Black History in February was one of the most important movements in Black History period. This paved the way for many others to pay homage to those whose accomplishments changed and continue to change the way America operates.

In recent years, there has been some harsh criticism about why Black History was crammed into one month. As I stated earlier, this month was chosen to coincide with President Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’ birthday. That’s not to say that blacks or African-Americans aren’t making history every day. This concept was chosen so that everyone could gain awareness and knowledge of unrecognized accomplishments by black people and it could be brought to the forefront.

 

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