Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February is African American History Month

African American History Month

National African American History Month in February celebrates the contributions that African Americans have made to American history in their struggles for freedom and equality and deepens our understanding of our Nation's history.

On occasion, I have heard the complaint ‘Why is African American History month the shortest month in the calendar?’

National African American History Month had its origins in 1915 when historian and author Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Through this organization Dr. Woodson initiated the first Negro History Week in February 1926. Dr. Woodson selected the week in February that included the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two key figures in the history of African Americans.

So the answer to that questions is that it was originally one week and the person who started it was African American.

In 1976 this commemoration of black history in the United States was expanded to Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, and President Ford issued the first Message on the Observance of Black History Month that year.

In 1986 Congress passed Public Law 99-244 which designated February 1986 as "National Black (Afro-American) History Month.” This law noted that February 1, 1986 would “mark the beginning of the sixtieth annual public and private salute to Black History.” The law further called upon the President to issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe February 1986 as Black History Month with the appropriate ceremonies and activities.

In 2008 President Bush issued Presidential Proclamation 8218. The theme for 2008 honored Carter G. Woodson who established the first Negro History Week and whose organization, ASALH, is responsible for setting the theme for "National African American History Month each year."

Dr. Woodson was born in 1875 in Buckingham County, Virginia. The son of former slaves, he worked in mines and quarries until the age of 20 when he became determined to receive an education. He received his high school diploma at the age of 22 and went on to get a master's degree in history from the University of Chicago. In 1912, Woodson received a doctorate in history from Harvard.
 His best-known book is "The Miseducation of the Negro."

Unable to land a teaching post at the elite university because Harvard wasn't hiring black professors, he went to teach at one of the nation's leading black colleges, Howard University. 

 He believed that education without the inclusion of Black history was detrimental to the health of a nation whose inherent promise is life, liberty and justice for all.

 Besides building self-esteem among blacks, Black History education would help eliminate prejudice among whites. 

So, Dr. Goodson embarked on a quest to establish a national celebration of black heritage. In 1926, Negro History Week was born.

Thank you Dr. Carter G. Woodson.