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 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.
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.