Spring 2018 Intern Blog Series: A Brief History of Black History Month

Being the second month of the year, February can be a month of settling into the year’s structure after the forever rush of the holiday season; still it provides glimmers of celebrations with days like Mardi Gras, Chinese New Year, and the (begrudgingly) beloved Valentine’s Day. February also dedicates 28 days to celebrate the lives and influences of black people in the United States, as it is Black History Month. In addition to exploring the rich and diverse history of black Americans, it is also important to recognize the history behind founding this History Month. Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) is often sourced as the “Father of Black History” and is credited for his work in the eventual establishment of Black History Month. Educated at Berea College, University of Chicago, and Harvard University, Woodson dedicated his life to include and highlight black people’s work in the American historical narrative. After founding what is known today as the Study of African American Life & History in 1915 and the Journal of African-American History the following year, Dr. Woodson established Negro History Week a decade later in 1926; though people today often joke of how Black History Month occurs in the shortest month of the year, choosing February honors Dr. Woodson’s original Week, as he picked the week of February 7th and February 14th to recognize the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, respectively. Though unofficially celebrated during his life and after his death, President Gerald Ford urged people to recognize the entire month of February, with President Jimmy Carter officially establishing Black History Month in 1976; President Carter stated that celebrating Black History Month “provides for all Americans a chance to rejoice and express pride in a heritage that adds so much to our way of life.” So, in following in this joyous celebration of heritage and honoring Woodson’s dream it is important that Americans take some time within these 28 days to explore the immense interworking and influence of black Americans in the United States.

-Lauren J.

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