Celebrating black history is not a new idea. Americans have been recognizing black history annually since 1926.
According to an article by Elissa Haney on Infoplease.com, it started as “Negro History Week,” which was the second week in February and later became Black History Month.
“What you might not know is that black history had barely begun to be studied—or even documented—when the tradition originated,” Haney wrote. “Although blacks have been in America at least as far back as colonial times, it was not until the 20th century that they gained a respectable presence in the history books.”
Carter G. Woodson not only pioneered the idea of putting aside a time to celebrate black history, but he also decided it was time to write black Americans into the nation’s history.
Woodson, the son of former slaves, worked in the Kentucky coal mines as a child and later went on to earn a doctorate from Harvard. He established what is now the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History and founded the Journal of Negro History.
And in 1926, he “launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history,” Haney wrote.
Woodson chose the second week in February because it marked the birth of two men who impacted black Americans—Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. Now America recognizes February as Black History Month.
Haney outlined several other high points in black history that happened in February:
Feb. 23, 1868—W.E.B. DuBois, civil rights leader and co-founder of the NAACP was born
Feb. 3, 1870—first black U.S. senator, Hiram R. Revels, took his oath of office
Feb. 12, 1909—founding of the NAACP
Feb. 1, 1960—a group of Greensboro, N.C. college students began a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter
These are just a few memorable dates in Black History Month. Click here to see other February happenings in black history.
Also, test your knowledge of black history by taking this quiz from familyeducation.com.