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The history of Black History Month

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Posted at 6:44 PM, Jan 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-01 13:18:06-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Black history month is a national celebration of the life, achievements, and history of Black Americans.

The origins of Black History Month is a notable history in itself.

According to History.com, a 7-day celebration initially called “Negro History Week,” was founded by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1915.

Woodson and prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) in 1915.

The association was committed to researching and promoting the accomplishments and history of Black Americans and the African Diaspora.

In 1926, ASNLH named the second week of February "Negro History Week" to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

"Negro History Week was a direct challenge to traditional curricula of the time period, which often degraded and dehumanized Black people," Stanford University Historian Michael Hines said.

Not only did this week focus on celebrating notable achievements, but it was also associated with a call to action for the social and political equality of Black people.

By the late 1960's, the week was embraced and eventually evolved into a month-long celebration by college students, teachers and various schools and institutions.

President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976:

In the Bicentennial year of our Independence, we can review with admiration the impressive contributions of black Americans to our national life and culture.

One hundred years ago, to help highlight these achievements, Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. We are grateful to him today for his initiative, and we are richer for the work of his organization.

Freedom and the recognition of individual rights are what our Revolution was all about. They were ideals that inspired our fight for Independence: ideals that we have been striving to live up to ever since. Yet it took many years before ideals became a reality for black citizens.

The last quarter-century has finally witnessed significant strides in the full integration of black people into every area of national life. In celebrating Black History Month, we can take satisfaction from this recent progress in the realization of the ideals envisioned by our Founding Fathers. But, even more than this, we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.

I urge my fellow citizens to join me in tribute to Black History Month and the message of courage and perseverance it brings to all of us.
Ford Library Museum

Still, it was not until ten years later in 1986 when the U.S Congress and a resolution by the House and Senate designated the month of February to "National Black History Month."

This resolution called for then President Reagan to issue a proclamation of the observance, and the Presidential Proclamation was established.

President Joe Biden issued A Proclamation on National Black History Month, 2023 on Jan. 31.

Now, the month is celebrated across America, The UK and Canada at schools and various corporations and organizations with events and activities.

Even so, Black History Month is still controversial and some people argue that singling out Black history is contradictory to true inclusion.

"Carter G. Woodson himself was cautiously optimistic that students in the future would no longer need Black History Month, if we taught in ways that honored and elevated our students and told their stories all year long," Hines said. "But we're not there yet. So Black History Month will continue to be what it always has been-a celebration, a stinging indictment, and a call to action all in one."

WATCH | Stanford University's "The History of Black History Month"