By now most people know that February is Black History Month, a time to commemorate the accomplishments of the black community in America and recognize their trials and triumphs throughout our nation’s history. What some may not know is how this month of remembrance and celebration got started.
In 1915, Dr. Carter Woodson and Reverend Jesse Moorland co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, with the goal of researching and bringing awareness to the largely overlooked, but integral role black people played in American and global history. In 1916, Dr. Woodson, the son of former slaves and the second black person to receive a degree from Harvard, published the findings of ASNLH’s research, hoping that it would shed light on popular untruths about black people. His vision was to instill his race with a sense of pride about their background.
In 1920, with Woodson’s encouragement, the fraternity Omega Psi Phi started Negro History and Literature week. Six years later, Woodson changed the name to simply Negro History Week and chose a week in February for the celebration.
Why February? Woodson wanted to honor the birth month of two men he believed drastically changed the future of black Americans -- Abraham Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and Frederick Douglass, one of the leading abolitionists in the U.S.
Woodson and the ASNLH distributed materials to teachers, black history clubs, and communities, to bring awareness to black culture. After his death in 1950, the recognition of Negro History Week continued in cities and groups across the country, and played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
In 1970, the Black Power Movement further stressed the notions of racial pride and the value of black American culture. By this point, the ASNLH changed its name to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and Negro History Week was now Black History Week. In 1976, Black History Week became Black History Month. To this day, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, along with hundreds of similar organizations, research, preserve, and teach black history and culture.