Black History Month

A Quick History


Robert Kozloff

A portrait of Carter G. Woodson hangs in the hallway at Carter G. Woodson South Elementary School in Chicago.

Since Middle School, I have always heard actors mention Black History Month on TV channels to honor Black Americans and what they have done for our country. However, I never learned about it in school, and I never took the chance to really think about the month, why it’s so important and how it came to be. 

In 1915, Black historian and NAACP member Carter G. Woodson, with help from philanthropist Jesse E. Moorland, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) to promote Black Americans’ achievements. 

11 years later, they sponsored a Negro History Week during the second month of February, as the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln, the emancipator of slaves, and Frederick Douglass, a Black American abolitionist in the mid-1800s, fell in this week. This week was a huge success, and it inspired others to form Black history clubs, host performances and lectures and teach children about Black history in schools. 

By 1950, Black History Week became a nationwide celebration, and in the 1960s, due to the Civil Rights movement, many colleges expanded this week to cover the entire month of February. 

President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976 and gave the month a specific theme. Every year since then, presidents have specified the month in recognition of Black History, giving it a unique theme each year. The theme for 2021 is “Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity,” showcasing the spread of Black Americans and Black culture across the United States.