What you need to know about the origins of Black History Month (2024)

Black History Month is considered one of the nation’s oldest organized history celebrations, and has been recognized by U.S. presidents for decades through proclamations and celebrations. Here is some information about the history of Black History Month.

How did Black History Month start?

It was Carter G. Woodson, a founder of the Assn. for the Study of African American History, who first came up with the idea of the celebration that became Black History Month. Woodson, the son of freed Virginia slaves, who went on to earn a PhD in history from Harvard, originally came up with the idea of Negro History Week to encourage Black Americans to become more interested in their own history and heritage. Woodson worried that Black children were not being taught about their ancestors’ achievements in American schools in the early 1900s.

“If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated,” Woodson said.


Why is Black History Month in February?

Woodson chose February because it had the birthdays of President Lincoln and the activist, author and speaker Frederick Douglass. Lincoln was born Feb. 12, and Douglass, a former slave who did not know his exact birthday, celebrated his on Feb. 14.

Daryl Michael Scott, a Howard University history professor and former president of the Assn. for the Study of African American History, said Woodson chose that week because Black Americans were already celebrating Lincoln’s and Douglass’ birthdays. With the help of Black newspapers, he promoted that week as a time to focus on African American history as part of the celebrations that were already ongoing.

The first Negro History Week was announced in February 1926.

“This was a community effort spearheaded by Woodson that built on tradition, and built on Black institutional life and structures to create a new celebration that was a week long, and it took off like a rocket,” Scott said.


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Why the change from a week to a month?

Negro History Week was wildly successful, but Woodson felt it needed more.

Woodson’s original idea was for it to be a time for student showcases of the African American history they learned the rest of the year, not as the only week Black history would be discussed, Scott said. Woodson later advocated starting a “Negro History Year,” saying that during a school year “a subject that receives attention one week out of 36 will not mean much to anyone.”

Individually several places, including West Virginia in the 1940s and Chicago in the 1960s, expanded the celebration into a month. The civil rights and Black Power movement advocated for an official shift from Black History Week to Black History Month, Scott said, and, in 1976, on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Negro History Week, the Assn. for the Study of African American History made the shift to Black History Month.


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Presidential recognition

Every president since Gerald R. Ford through Joe Biden has issued a statement honoring the spirit of Black History Month.


Ford first honored Black History Week in 1975, calling the recognition “most appropriate,” as the country developed “a healthy awareness on the part of all of us of achievements that have too long been obscured and unsung.”

The next year, in 1976, Ford issued the first Black History Month commemoration, saying with the celebration “we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

President Carter added in 1978 that the celebration “provides for all Americans a chance to rejoice and express pride in a heritage that adds so much to our way of life.” President Reagan said in 1981 that “understanding the history of Black Americans is a key to understanding the strength of our nation.”

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What you need to know about the origins of Black History Month (2024)


What you need to know about the origins of Black History Month? ›

National Black History Month has its origins in 1915, when historian and author Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History

Association for the Study of Negro Life and History
The mission of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) is to promote, research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community.
. This organization is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

What are the origins and history of Black History Month? ›

The precursor to Black History Month was created in 1926 in the United States, when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) announced the second week of February to be "Negro History Week".

What is important to know about Black History Month? ›

February is Black History Month. This month-long observance in the US and Canada is a chance to celebrate Black achievement and provide a fresh reminder to take stock of where systemic racism persists and give visibility to the people and organizations creating change.

How did Black History Month get started? ›

Black History Month

Woodson's devotion to showcasing the contributions of Black Americans bore fruit in 1926 when he launched Negro History Week in the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Woodson's concept was later expanded into Black History Month.

Why is Black history important in history? ›

African Americans have played a central role in shaping U.S. history. From slavery and its abolition to the Great Migration, the civil rights movement and military, scientific, cultural and political achievements, explore key moments, milestones and figures in Black History.

Who is known as the father of Black history? ›

GAZETTE: Carter G. Woodson is known as the father of Black history.

What are 10 facts about Black history? ›

11 Black history facts to commemorate Black History Month
  • Black History Month began as a week. ...
  • Thurgood Marshall was the first Black American appointed to the Supreme Court. ...
  • The first Black person to win an Oscar was... ...
  • Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday in 2021.
Jan 17, 2024

What are 2 important facts about Black History Month? ›

It was first celebrated during the second week of February in 1926 to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and abolitionist/editor Frederick Douglass (February 14). In 1976, as part of the nation's bicentennial, the week was expanded to a month.

What do I need to know about Black history? ›

4 Key Black History Facts That Everyone Should Know
  • Black History Did Not Start With Slavery. ...
  • Changing Laws Did Not Magically Erase Discrimination. ...
  • Resistance and Protest Have Been Absolute Prerequisites For Racial Progress. ...
  • When Slavery Ended, Many Slave Owners Were Compensated.
Feb 27, 2023

Who has the biggest impact on Black history? ›

These leaders have also had a significant impact in shaping the world we live in today.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the most well-known civil rights leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr. ...
  • Rosa Parks. ...
  • Barack Obama. ...
  • Frederick Douglass. ...
  • oprah Winfrey. ...
  • Harriet Tubman. ...
  • Medgar Evers. ...
  • Jackie Robinson.
Mar 2, 2022

When did Black History Month start and why did it start then? ›

The celebration of Black History Month began as “Negro History Week,” which was created in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, a noted African American historian, scholar, educator and publisher. It became a month-long celebration in 1976.

Who was the first black millionaire? ›

Madam C.J.

Walker (1867-1919), who started life as a Louisiana sharecropper born to formerly enslaved parents in 1867, is usually cited as the first Black millionaire.

Why should everyone celebrate Black History Month? ›

Black History Month is that time for African Americans to acknowledge key figures from our past and present. It's an opportunity to spotlight and celebrate the achievements that African Americans have accomplished in this country, despite the history of racism and oppression.

Who founded Black History Month? ›

Carter G. Woodson, circa 1910. In February 1926, Woodson sent out a press release announcing the first Negro History Week. He chose February because the month contained the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two prominent men whose historic achievements African Americans already celebrated.

When did the celebration of Black History Month first begin? ›

United States: Black History Month (1976)

Black History Month was first proposed by Black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. The first celebration of Black History Month took place at Kent State one year later, in February 1970.

Who started Black history week and why? ›

On Feb. 7, 1926, Carter G. Woodson, initiated the first celebration of Negro History Week which led to Black History Month, to extend and deepen the study and scholarship on African American history, all year long.

What are some unknown Black history facts? ›

Black History Month Trivia
  • William Tucker, son of indentured servants from Great Britain, was the first recorded African child to be born in the colonies in 1624.
  • Vermont was the first colony to ban slavery in 1777.
  • In the 1770s, a Quaker named Anthony Benezet created the first school for African American children.
Jan 11, 2022

What is the statement of Black History Month? ›

This National Black History Month, we celebrate the vast contributions of Black Americans to our country and recognize that Black history is American history and that Black culture, stories, and triumphs are at the core of who we are as a Nation. The soul of America is what makes us unique among all nations.

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