Black History Month 2023 As we move to February, we begin to celebrate and learn about Black History Month. As we tell the history of how Black History Month evolved into what it is today, I have included important educational links that can help reference information to aid in discussions with your children.
Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history.
The story of Black History Month begins in 1915, half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. That September, the Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by Black Americans and other peoples of African descent.
Known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the group sponsored a national Negro History week in 1926, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The event inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs, and host performances and lectures.
In the decades that followed, mayors of cities across the country began issuing yearly proclamations recognizing "Negro History Week." By the late 1960s, thanks in part to the civil rights movement and a growing awareness of Black identity, "Negro History Week" had evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses.
President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Today, Black History Month is a time to honor the contributions and legacy of African Americans across U.S. history and society—from activists and civil rights pioneers such as Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks to leaders in industry, politics, science, culture and more.
Since 1976, every American president has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme. The Black History Month 2023 theme, “Black Resistance,” explores how "African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial programs and police killings," since the nation's earliest days.
Throughout the month of February (and the entire school year), students at WES study and learn about the contributions of African Americans in the United States. Over the next several weeks, I will highlight specific lessons as part of my weekly communication so that we share some of the amazing learning opportunities our students' experience during Black History Month.
February marks the start of Black History Month, a federally recognized celebration of the contributions African Americans have made to this country and a time to reflect on the continued struggle for racial justice. Black History Month has become one of the most celebrated cultural heritage months on the calendar.
Who started Black History Month?
Carter G. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History,” developed Black History Month. Woodson, whose parents were enslaved, was an author, historian and the second African American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard University.
He recognized that the American education system offered very little information about the accomplishments of African Americans and founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
In 1926, Woodson proposed a national “Negro History Week," which was intended to showcase everything students learned about Black history throughout the school year, King said.
It wasn't until 1976, during the height of the civil rights movement, that President Gerald Ford expanded the week into Black History Month.
Why is Black History Month in February? Woodson chose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass, a famed abolitionist who escaped from slavery, and President Abraham Lincoln, who formally abolished slavery.
Feb. 1 is National Freedom Day, the anniversary of the approval of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in 1865. Richard Wright, who was enslaved and became a civil rights advocate and author, lobbied for the celebration of the day, CNN reported, citing the National Constitution Center.
Woodson believed it was essential for young African Americans to understand and be proud of their heritage. “Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history," he said.
Before the country can move past racial harm, there needs to be “truth, then accountability and then maybe reconciliation," said Dionne Grayman, who trains schools to have difficult conversations about race.
Failing to understand the history of race and racism and a strong desire to overlook the worst aspects of racist violence in the United States has fueled resentment toward civil rights activism, said Dan Hirschman, an assistant professor of sociology at Brown University in Rhode Island.
Here's how to celebrate Black History Month
The theme of Black History Month 2021 is "The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity," chosen by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
Celebrate Black History Month with PBS:
Black History Month is here and PBS is thrilled to share a host of documentaries and digital shorts that highlight the richness of the Black experience in American history. Here are previews of films premiering this month on PBS, as well as a dozen films you can stream to celebrate Black history: https://www.pbs.org/articles/2021/02/celebrate-black-history-month-2021/