Black History Month brings our attention to some of the most important people, events, and milestones in the nation. It is a time to celebrate, and a time to reflect. Read on to learn more about why we celebrate Black History Month today!
Where Black History Month Begins
In 1915, black historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland joined together and created the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASALH). Their goal was clear: to promote African American culture and preserve black history. As a result, the ASALH sponsored the first “Negro History Week” in February of 1926. They chose February to honor the birth month of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
Negro History Week gained traction in the ’60s and was eventually practiced all over the country. Not long after in 1976, President Gerald Ford announced the month of February as Black History Month. The idea stuck, and Black History Month has continued every year since.
The Theme of Black History Month
Every February, the ASALH uses a theme to highlight a unique component of black history. This year’s theme is “African Americans and the Vote” in honor of the Nineteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Along with many other achievements, this year we remember the struggles women and men of color went through for the freedom to vote.
Who Do We Celebrate?
Many amazing people have shaped America’s history. But during Black History Month we give praise to people such as Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, W.E.B. Du Bois and many more. These people fought for freedom and paved the way for equality; keep reading to learn about a few more!
During WWII, President Roosevelt historically announced that African Americans could train as pilots for the U.S. military. A group of black pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen quickly rose through the ranks and became some of the most prestigious fighters of WWII. With racial discrimination on one side and enemy soldiers on the other, the Tuskegee Airmen still managed to destroy over 1,300 enemy vehicles by war’s end.
In the late 1940s, first baseman Jackie Robinson started his Major League Baseball career for the Brooklyn Dodgers. In doing so, he shattered baseball’s color barrier and cleared the way for more black athletes to join him on the field. His name constantly made headlines, forever changing the world of sports. After his retirement, his jersey number “42” was retired from every major league baseball team in the league.
In January 2009, President Barack Obama became the first African American president to take office in the United States of America. A record-setting 1.8 million people gathered to witness the inauguration.
The list goes on– the stories of success and achievement are endless.
More Black History Facts
Black History Month is celebrated in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Vermont was the first state to officially abolish slavery.
In the mid-1800s, historians discovered written protests arguing for abolition. They were drafted by Pennsylvania Quakers in 1688 and are considered the earliest recorded protests against slavery.
In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman in Congress. She served a four-year term and began her presidential campaign shortly after. While Chisholm didn’t win, she is the first African American from a major political party to have run for president.
The examples of black men and women who’ve changed the world are endless. Despite broken pasts and painful histories, Black History Month is a time to celebrate the contributions and culture of those mentioned above and many more. Don’t forget to reflect on the importance of Black History Month and how it’s shaped our country to be what it is today!