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Black History Month: An Overview

Black History Month Celebration Vector Template Design Illustration
By Maddy Teka, Esq. | Last updated on

Since 1976, every president has issued a national decree designating February as Black History Month to recognize the central role of the U.S.'s Black population in its history.

Black History Month is more than a celebration. It is also the time to reflect on the continued struggle for racial justice in the country.

How Did Black History Month Start?

Black History Month was first conceived when Carter G. Woodson and Jesse Moorland founded the "Association of Negro Life and History" in 1915. This organization, now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), celebrates African-American accomplishments. It also promoted studying Black history as its own discipline. Woodson was a historian who received his Ph.D. at Harvard.

Why Is Black History Month in February?

To ensure Black people are part of American History, Woodson and Moorland launched "Negro History Week" in 1926. They chose the second week of February because it was the week both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln were born.

When Was Black History Month Officially Recognized?

By the 1960s, universities and colleges changed the week into a month-long celebration of Black History on campus. The official recognition, however, came in 1976 when President Gerald Ford signed a decree making Black History Month a national observance.

Many countries followed suit in adopting Black History Month, including Canada and the United Kingdom.

What Is the Theme for Black History Month in 2024?

Every year, there is a Black History Month theme. The themes reflect the ambitions of African Americans as well as how race influences social movements. This year the theme is "African Americans and the Arts" celebrating how "African American artists have used art to preserve history and community memory as well as for empowerment."

How Can I Celebrate Black History Month?

Among the many ways to celebrate Black History month are:

  • Learn about black history online or at your library.
  • Watch movies or documentaries about notable Black figures.
  • Listen to podcasts about Black history.
  • Support Black-owned businesses.
  • Join the virtual Black History Month festival presented by ASALH.
  • Get involved in promoting Black history education in schools.
  • Donate to charities that fight racism and inequality.

While Black History Month looks to the past, there is also currently a lot of debate about teaching Black history in schools. In 2021, many legislatures banned teaching critical race theory. Florida recently rejected a proposed Advanced Placement Black History course set to be taught in high schools there.

So, while celebrating the countless achievements of Black men and women throughout history, it is equally important to preserve and promote Black history.

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