The origin of Black History Month


Dr. Carter Woodson was instrumental in the creation of African American History Month.

Annika Almond and Parker Rhee

According to Time Magazine

African American History month, also known as Black History Month, is an annual month long event held every February, dedicated to celebrating the achievements of African Americans and promoting the study of their history. Commonly observed all over the nation, the majority of people in the United States are at least passingly familiar with it. Considering its prominence in modern times, some may be interested its origins.

In the early 1900’s, a historian named Carter G. Woodson was dissatisfied with how American institutions taught African American history. Woodson held a PhD in history from Harvard, as well as a masters in history from the University of Chicago. He felt that African American people were not given credit for the part they had played in shaping history, and he felt that he needed to change that. In 1915, he and a friend, Jesse E. Moorland, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now the Association for the study of African American Life and History (ASALH). The organization aimed to promote the study of African American history, and to celebrate the accomplishments of African American people. One of their primary goals was to get schools and other educational institutes to include more information about notable African Americans in their curriculums, and it seems that they may have succeeded.

“I think one of the best things we have done at Hidden Valley to bring awareness to African American accomplishments was when, last year, we had a door decorating contest. We had people create door displays that showcased African Americans, male and female, who were leaders in their respective fields,” said Mr. Richardson, a social studies teacher at HVHS.

“If a race has no history… it has a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated,” said Woodson, talking about why he felt that there was a need to promote the study of African American history.

In 1926, the ASALH launched “Negro History Week” to bring attention to their cause. The ASALH chose the second week in February for their “Negro History Week” because it encompassed both Fredrick Douglass’s and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays. In the 1960’s, several educational institutions and municipalities started to pick up the celebration, lengthening it and renaming it “Black History Month”. In 1926, President Gerald Ford issued a decree making Black History Month a national observance.