Black History Month celebrates the rich cultural heritage, triumphs and adversities that are an indelible part of our country’s history. Every February, the U.S. honors the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shape the nation.
In 1915, in response to the lack of information on the accomplishments of Black people available to the public, historian Carter G. Woodson co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. In 1926, the group declared the second week of February as “Negro History Week” to recognize the contributions of African Americans to U.S. history. This week was chosen because it includes the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist (someone who wanted to end the practice of enslaving people), and former U.S. president Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln led the United States during the Civil War, which was primarily fought over the enslavement of Black people in the country.
Black History Month was created to focus attention on the contributions of African Americans to the United States. As the saying goes, Black history is American history — and it’s a varied and rich history. A wise nation honors and learns from its past. It refuses to let the most important facts about our shared and collective memory disappear into the depths of forgotten history. What happened in the past shapes and informs where we are heading in the future, and it’s of paramount importance to set aside a month for learning as much as we can about Black history.
Initially, Black History Month was a way of teaching students and young people about Black and African-Americans’ contributions. Such stories had been largely forgotten and were a neglected part of the national narrative. Now, it’s seen as a celebration of those who’ve impacted not just the country but the world with their activism and achievement. Black History Month is an opportunity to understand Black histories, going beyond stories of racism and slavery to spotlight Black achievement.