What is Black History Month?

K T Solis

Black History Month is a month-long celebration of the contributions and achievements of African-Americans. It takes place during the month of February and highlights the contributions of African-Americans in the fields of science, the arts, literature, entertainment, politics, and sports. Whether learning about the first African-American mayor of a major city or the first African-American astronaut, Black History Month places a spotlight on notable African- Americans who have contributed to American society.

The contributions of African-Americans are recognized during Black History Month.
The contributions of African-Americans are recognized during Black History Month.

The beginnings of Black History Month was established by a man named Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1926. Woodson, the son of former slaves, went on to earn a PhD from Harvard. He was upset that history books never mentioned African- Americans. On the rare occasions they appeared in American history books, the books only spoke of their time as slaves.

Black History Month coincides with President Lincoln's birthday.
Black History Month coincides with President Lincoln's birthday.

In response to this neglect, Woodson began the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915. By 1916, Woodson had started the Journal of Negro History. In 1926, Negro History Week was born. He started the week-long celebration in order to encourage the U.S. to take the time to recognize the contributions of African-Americans throughout history.

Woodson chose the second week of February for Negro History Week because President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born during the first week of February. These two men were both instrumental in helping to improve the lives of African-Americans. By 1976, Negro History Week was expanded and named Black History Month. During Black History Month, Americans learn about African-American inventors, scientists, civil rights leaders, performers, writers, athletes, political figures, and historical figures who have contributed to American society.

Children in school read books about famous African-Americans, learn about little-known black history facts, and participate in activities that celebrate the African-American culture. Television stations run movies that feature the lives of African-Americans who have historical significance in the U.S. Organizations present an array of special events to celebrate Black History Month, including poetry readings, film festivals, dramatic presentations, and music concerts.

Not everyone is satisfied with the way the U.S. celebrates black history. In fact, some critics believe that Black History Month should be celebrated year-round. They feel that it is insulting to only celebrate the achievements of African-Americans during one month of the year. Until these critics are able to change the celebration so that Black history is seamlessly included in all American history books, the U.S. continues to observe Black History Month during February.

Black History Month is in February in part because Frederick Douglass was born the first week of February.
Black History Month is in February in part because Frederick Douglass was born the first week of February.

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Discussion Comments


As far as I'm concerned, every month of the year has been a form of White History Month for as long as I can remember. The question of why we don't designate a specific month as White History Month seems more than a little racially charged. I'm a white male myself, but I don't feel slighted that my caucasian heritage isn't discussed for a month in schools.

I have absolutely no problem with recognizing the contributions of African-Americans as part of a month-long remembrance. For too many years, Black History Month would have consisted of a body count and a mutual back-patting session for acts of suppression and prejudice against black citizens. The very least our society can do is recognize that these injustices did indeed occur, and the contributions of African-American citizens (many of which worked under the worst social conditions) should be acknowledged.


@gardenturtle: To me, it seems as though having a Black History Month, White History Month, or Native American History Month just encourages more segregation between races.

There is a petition that has been circulated on the Web that states this: “We believe that if African Americans and now Hispanics can have their history month for their heritage, why can’t the white Americans have White History Month? Wake up Americans before we become extinct! Please, sign my petition so that we can also have our White History Month.”

I just quoted what was on their website. That does not represent my personal views or opinions.


@gardenturtle: I think that Native Americans have a month dedicated to them. If I’m not mistaken, November is Native American Heritage Month.


I completely understand the importance of what African Americans have overcame. However, I am just curious why we do not have a White History month or even a Native American month. Native Americans have been through a lot, as well. I am just curious what the reasoning is.

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