Black History Month is an annual observance originating in the United States, where it is also known as African-American History Month. It has received official recognition from governments in the United States and Canada, and more recently has been observed in Ireland and the United Kingdom. It began as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. It is celebrated in February in the United States and Canada,  while in Ireland, and the United Kingdom it is observed in October.

Black educators and Black United Students at Kent State University first proposed Black History Month in February 1969. The first celebration of Black History Month took place at Kent State a year later, from January 2 to February 28, 1970.

President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month in 1976, during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial. He urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.

 

Black History Month is an annual observance originating in the United States, where it is also known as African-American History Month. It has received official recognition from governments in the United States and Canada, and more recently has been observed in Ireland and the United Kingdom. It began as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. It is celebrated in February in the United States[4] and Canada,[5] while in Ireland and the United Kingdom it is observed in October.[6][7]

Black History Month
Also calledAfrican-American History Month
Observed byUnited States, Canada,[1] Ireland, United Kingdom[2]
SignificanceCelebration of the African diaspora including, African-American history
Date
  • February (US and Canada)
  • October (Europe)
FrequencyAnnual

Origin

 
Carter G. Woodson (1875–1950)

Negro History Week (1926)

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".[8] This week was chosen because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and that of Frederick Douglass on February 14, both of which Black communities had celebrated since the late 19th century.[8] For example, in January 1897, school teacher Mary Church Terrell persuaded the Washington, D.C. school board to set aside the afternoon of Douglass's birthday as Douglass Day to teach about his life and work in the city's segregated public schools.[9] The thought process behind the week was never recorded, but scholars acknowledge two reasons for its birth: recognition and importance.[10] In 1915, Woodson had participated in the Lincoln Jubilee, a celebration of the 50 years since emancipation from slavery held in Bronzeville, Chicago. The summer-long Jubilee, which drew thousands of attendees from across the county to see exhibitions of heritage and culture, impressed Woodson with the need to draw organized focus to the history of black people. He led the founding of the ASNLH in Chicago that fall, toward the end of the Jubilee.[9]

Early in the event's history, African-American newspapers lent crucial support.[11] From the event's initial phase, primary emphasis was placed on encouraging the coordinated teaching of the history of Black Americans in the nation's public schools. The first Negro History Week was met with a lukewarm response, gaining the cooperation of the departments of education of the states of North Carolina, Delaware, and West Virginia as well as the city school administrations of Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.[12] Despite this limited observance, Woodson regarded the event as "one of the most fortunate steps ever taken by the Association", and plans for an annual repeat of the event continued.[12]

At the time of Negro History Week's launch, Woodson contended that the teaching of Black History was essential to ensure the physical and intellectual survival of Blacks within broader society:

If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated. The American Indian left no continuous record. He did not appreciate the value of tradition; and where is he today? The Hebrew keenly appreciated the value of tradition, as is attested by the Bible itself. In spite of worldwide persecution, therefore, he is a great factor in our civilization.[13]

In 1929, The Journal of Negro History noted that, with only two exceptions, officials with the state departments of education of "every state with considerable Negro population" had made the event known to that state's teachers and distributed official literature associated with the event.[14] Churches also played a significant role in the distribution of literature in association with Negro History Week during this initial period, with the mainstream and Black press aiding in the publicity effort.

Throughout the 1930s, Negro History Week countered the growing myth of the South's "lost cause", which argued that enslaved people had been well-treated, that the Civil War was a war of "northern aggression", and that Black people had been better off under slavery. Woodson wrote, "When you control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his actions, you do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his 'proper place' and will stay in it."[15]

Negro History Week grew in popularity throughout the following decades, with mayors across the United States endorsing it as a holiday.[8]

Black History Month (1970)

 
The Black United Students first Black culture center, Kuumba House in Kent State, where many events of the first Black History Month celebration took place[4]

Black educators and Black United Students at Kent State University first proposed Black History Month in February 1969. The first celebration of Black History Month took place at Kent State a year later, from January 2 to February 28, 1970.[4]

Six years later, Black History Month was being celebrated all across the country in educational institutions, centers of Black culture, and community centers, both great and small, when President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month in 1976, during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial. He urged Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history".[16]

Observance by region

United States

In the Black community, the creation of Black History Month was met with enthusiastic response; it prompted the creation of Black history clubs, an increase in interest among teachers, and interest from progressive whites.[8]

Since its inception, Black History Month has expanded beyond its initial acceptance in educational establishments. Carter Woodson's organization, now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), designates a theme each year.[17] For example, "Black Health and Wellness" in 2022 focused on medical scholars, health care providers, and health outcomes.[18] The Wall Street Journal describes Black History Month as "a time when the culture and contributions of African Americans take center stage" in a variety of cultural institutions, including theaters, libraries, and museums.[19]

Black History Month has garnered attention from the U.S. business community.[20] In 2018, Instagram created its first Black History Month program with the help of its Head of Global Music & Youth Culture Communications, SHAVONE. Instagram's Black History Month program featured a series of first-time initiatives, including a #BlackGirlMagic partnership with Spotify and the launch of the #CelebrateBlackCreatives program, which reached more than 19 million followers.[21] In February 2020, many American corporations commemorated Black History Month, including The Coca-Cola Company, Google, Target Corporation, Macy's, United Parcel Service and Under Armour.[22]

On February 18, 2016, 106-year Washington, D.C., resident and school volunteer Virginia McLaurin visited the White House as part of Black History Month. When asked by President Barack Obama why she was there, McLaurin said: "A Black president. A Black wife. And I'm here to celebrate Black history. That's what I'm here for."[23][24]

United Kingdom

 
1822 handbill advertising a Black boxing tutor in Alnwick, Northumberland; tweeted by Northumberland Archives as part of Black History Month in 2020[25]

In the United Kingdom, Black History Month was first celebrated in October 1987[26] The year of 1987, recognized as the African Jubilee, was coincidentally the year of the 150th anniversary of Caribbean emancipation, the centenary of the birth of Marcus Garvey and the 25th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity, an institution dedicated to advancing the progress of African states.[27] Black History Month in the UK was organised through the leadership of Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who had served as a coordinator of special projects for the Greater London Council (GLC) and created a collaboration to get it underway.[28][29] The first Black History Month celebration in the UK was held in London on October 1, 1987, when Dr. Maulana Karenga from the US was invited to an event by the Greater London Council about Black people's contributions to history.[30]

Some institutions have faced criticism for supporting Black History Month with images of people from British Asian backgrounds, using the term "black" to refer to political blackness encompassing all people of color.[31]

Germany

In Berlin in 1990, members of the Black German community began observing Black History Month. Programs have included discussions of black Europeans, international African perspectives, the history of civil rights in the U.S., and apartheid in South Africa.[32]

Canada

In 1995, after a motion by politician Jean Augustine, representing the riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore in Ontario, Canada's House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month (French: Mois de l'histoire des Noirs) and honored Black Canadians.[33] In 2008, Senator Donald Oliver moved to have the Senate officially recognize Black History Month, which was unanimously approved.[5]

Canada defines the festivity as an opportunity to celebrate "the achievements and contributions of Black Canadians and their communities who … have done so much to make Canada a culturally diverse, compassionate, and prosperous country".[34]

Republic of Ireland

Ireland's Great Hunger Institute, at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, notes: "Black History Month Ireland was initiated in Cork in 2010. This location seems particularly appropriate as, in the 19th century, the city was a leading center of abolition, and the male and female anti-slavery societies welcomed several black abolitionists to lecture there, including Charles Lenox Remond and Frederick Douglass."[35]

France

In France, Black History Month was first organized in 2018 in Bordeaux.[36] Since then, there have been celebrations in Paris, Le Havre, Guadeloupe, La Rochelle and Bayonne. In 2022 the month was dedicated to Josephine Baker, a dancer and member of the French Resistance during World War II born in the United States.[37]

Africa

In 2020, Black History Month was celebrated in seven African countries for the first time. Participating countries were Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ivory Coast, Comores, Senegal and Cameroon. The event was initiated by the organisation Africa Mondo founded by Mélina Seymour. From 2021 onwards an African History Month was celebrated in March.[citation needed]

Developments

When first established, Black History Month resulted in some controversy.[38] Those who believed that Black History Month was limited to educational institutions questioned whether it was appropriate to confine the celebration of Black history to one month, as opposed to the integration of Black history into mainstream education for the whole year. Another concern was that, contrary to the original inspiration for Black History Month, which was a desire to redress how American schools failed to represent Black historical figures as anything other than enslaved people or colonial subjects, Black History Month could reduce complex historical figures to overly simplified objects of "hero worship". Other critics refer to the celebration as a form of racism.[39] Actor and director Morgan Freeman and actress Stacey Dash have criticized the concept of declaring only one month as Black History Month.[40][41] Freeman noted, "I don't want a Black history month. Black history is American history."[42]

Themes

In the US, a theme for each Black History Month is selected by the ASALH:[43][44][45]

  • 1928: Civilization: A World Achievement
  • 1929: Possibility of Putting Negro History in the Curriculum
  • 1930: Significant Achievements of the Negro
  • 1931: Neglected Aspects of Negro History
  • 1932: What George Washington Bicentennial Commission Fail to Do
  • 1933: Ethiopia Meets Error in Truth
  • 1934: Contribution of the Negro in Poetry, in Painting, in Sculpture and in Science
  • 1935: The Negro Achievements in Africa
  • 1936: African Background Outlined
  • 1937: American Negro History from the Time of Importation from Africa up to the Present Day
  • 1938: Special Achievements of the Race: Oratory, Drama, Music, Painting, Sculpture, Science and Inventions
  • 1939: Special Achievements of the Race: Religion, Education, Business, Architecture, Engineering, Innovation, Pioneering
  • 1940: Negro Labor
  • 1941: The Career of Frederick Douglass
  • 1942: The Negro in Democracy
  • 1943: The Negro in the Modern World
  • 1944: The Negro and the New Order
  • 1945: The Negro and Reconversion
  • 1946: Let us Have Peace
  • 1947: Democracy Possible only Through Brotherhood
  • 1948: The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth
  • 1949: The Use of Spirituals in the Classroom
  • 1950: Outstanding Moments in Negro History
  • 1951: Eminent Negroes in World Affairs
  • 1952: Great Negro Educators (Teachers)
  • 1953: Negro History and Human Relations
  • 1954: Negro History: A Foundation for Integration
  • 1955: Negro History: A Contribution to America's Intercultural Life
  • 1956: Negro History in an Era of Changing Human Relations
  • 1957: Negro History
  • 1958: Negro History: A Factor in Nationalism and Internationalism
  • 1959: Negro History: A Foundation for a Proud America
  • 1960: Strengthening America Through Education in Negro History and African Culture
  • 1961: Freedom and Democracy for the Negro after 100 years (1861–1961)
  • 1962: Negro History and a New Birth of Freedom
  • 1963: Negro History Evaluates Emancipation (1863–1963)
  • 1964: Negro History: A Basis for the New Freedom
  • 1965: Negro History: Freedom's Foundation
  • 1966: Freedom from Racial Myths and Stereotypes Through Negro History
  • 1967: Negro History in the Home, School, and the Community
  • 1968: The Centennial of the Fourteenth Amendment Afro American History Week
  • 1969: Changing the Afro American Image through History
  • 1970: 15th Amendment and Black America in the Century (1870–1970)
  • 1971: African Civilization and Culture: A Worthy Historical Background
  • 1972: African Art, Music, Literature; a Valuable Cultural Experience
  • 1973: Biography Illuminates the Black Experience
  • 1974: Helping America Understand
  • 1975: Fulfilling America's Promise: Black History Month
  • 1976: America for All Americans
  • 1977: Heritage Days: The Black Perspective; the Third Century
  • 1978: Roots, Achievements and Projections
  • 1979: History: Torch for the future
  • 1980: Heritage for America
  • 1981: Black History: Role Model for Youth
  • 1982: Afro American Survival
  • 1983: Afro Americans in the United States
  • 1984: Afro Americans and Education
  • 1985: Afro American Family
  • 1986: Afro American Experience: International Connection
  • 1987: Afro Americans and the Constitution from Colonial Times to the Present
  • 1988: Constitutional Status of Afro Americans in the 21st Century
  • 1989: Afro Americans and Religion
  • 1990: Seventy-Five Years of Scholarly Excellence: A Homage to Our Forebearers
  • 1991: Educating America: Black Universities and Colleges, Strengths and Crisis
  • 1992: African Roots Experience New Worlds, Pre-Columbus to Space Exploration
  • 1993: Afro-American Scholars: Leaders, Activists and Writers
  • 1994: Empowering Black Americans
  • 1995: Reflections on 1895: Douglass, Du Bois & Washington
  • 1996: Black Women
  • 1997: African Americans and Civil Rights; a Reprisal
  • 1998: Black Business
  • 1999: Legacy of African American Leadership for the Present and the Future
  • 2000: Heritage and Horizons: The African American Legacy and the Challenges for the 21st Century
  • 2001: Creating and Defining the African American Community: Family, Church Politics and Culture
  • 2002: The Color Line Revisited: Is Racism Dead?
  • 2003: The Souls of Black Folks: Centennial Reflections
  • 2004: Before Brown, Beyond Boundaries: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education
  • 2005: The Niagara Movement: Black Protest Reborn, 1905–2005
  • 2006: Celebrating Community: A Tribute to Black Fraternal, Social, and Civil Institutions
  • 2007: From Slavery to Freedom: Africans in the Americas
  • 2008: Carter G. Woodson and the Origins of Multiculturalism
  • 2009: The Quest for Black Citizenship in the Americas
  • 2010: The History of Black Economic Empowerment
  • 2011: African Americans and the Civil War
  • 2012: Black Women in American Culture and History
  • 2012: President Barack Obama National Black History Month Proclamation
  • 2013: At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington
  • 2014: Civil Rights in America
  • 2015: A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture
  • 2016: Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories
  • 2017: The Crisis in Black Education
  • 2018: African Americans in Times of War
  • 2019: Black Migrations
  • 2020: African Americans and the Vote
  • 2021: The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity
  • 2022: Black Health and Wellness
  • 2023: Black Resistance
  • 2024: African Americans and the Arts

See also

Other history months

Heritage months

International

Footnotes

  1. ^ Compton, Wayde (February 14, 2016), "Remembering Hogan's Alley, hub of Vancouver's black community", CBC News. Archived March 13, 2017, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ May, Theresa (September 28, 2016), "Black History Month Introduction; Prime Minister, Theresa May" Archived March 13, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, September 28, 2016.
  3. ^ Veal, Lou (February 3, 1970), "'Black History Month' begins with opening of culture center", Daily Kent Stater, Volume LV, Number 52, Kent State University Archived March 13, 2017, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ a b c Wilson, Milton. "Involvement/2 Years Later: A Report On Programming In The Area Of Black Student Concerns At Kent State University, 1968–1970". Special Collections and Archives: Milton E. Wilson, Jr. papers, 1965–1994. Kent State University. Archived from the original on May 15, 2013. Retrieved September 28, 2012.
  5. ^ a b "About Black History Month". Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Archived from the original on February 1, 2012. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  6. ^ Ryan, Órla (October 4, 2014). "Ireland becomes fourth country in world to celebrate Black History Month". TheJournal.ie. Archived from the original on November 22, 2020. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  7. ^ "BHM365". Black History Month 365. Archived from the original on March 23, 2018. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d Scott, Daryl Michael (December 29, 2011), "The Origins of Black History Month", Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Archived February 14, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ a b Chambers, Veronica; Jamiel Law (ill.) (February 25, 2021). "How Negro History Week Became Black History Month and Why It Matters Now". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  10. ^ Reddick, L. D. (January–June 2002). "25 Negro History Weeks". The Negro History Bulletin. 65.
  11. ^ Delmont, Matthew F. (2019). Black Quotidian: History. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-1503607040. Retrieved February 4, 2022. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  12. ^ a b Woodson, C. G. (April 1926). "Negro History Week". Journal of Negro History. 11 (2): 238–242. doi:10.2307/2714171. JSTOR 2714171. S2CID 150316762.
  13. ^ Woodson, C. G. (April 1926). "Negro History Week". Journal of Negro History. 11 (2): 239. doi:10.2307/2714171. JSTOR 2714171. S2CID 150316762.
  14. ^ "Negro History Week-the Fourth Year". The Journal of Negro History. 14 (2): 109–110. April 1929. doi:10.2307/2714065. JSTOR 2714065. S2CID 224844258 – via JSTOR.
  15. ^ "'Birth of a Nation' and the Birth of Black History Month". The Attic. Archived from the original on March 3, 2020. Retrieved March 3, 2020.
  16. ^ Ford, Gerald R. (February 10, 1976). "President Gerald R. Ford's Message on the Observance of Black History Month". Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum. University of Texas. Archived from the original on January 19, 2013. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  17. ^ Benbow, Candice Marie (February 1, 2022). "Black History Month has a theme…who knew?". Retrieved May 14, 2023.
  18. ^ Franklin, Jonathan (February 1, 2022). "Here's the story behind Black History Month — and why it's celebrated in February". NPR. Retrieved February 2, 2022.
  19. ^ Hughes, Robert J. (January 21, 2000). "During Black History Month, Enjoy a Slice of American Culture". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on October 24, 2020.
  20. ^ "Secrets of Wealthy Women: African-American Women on Overcoming Obstacles", The Wall Street Journal, February 6, 2019 (subscription required). Archived October 24, 2020, at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ Long, Tia (February 27, 2019). "SHAVONE. Is Stepping Out of Tech and Into Her Own". PAPER MAGAZINE. Archived from the original on October 31, 2020. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  22. ^ Todd, Samantha (February 3, 2020), "How Google, Coca-Cola And Other American Companies Are Celebrating Black History Month 2020", Forbes. Archived October 27, 2020, at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ "'I am so happy': 106-year-old woman dances with joy as she meets Obama". CTVNews. February 22, 2016. Archived from the original on December 2, 2018. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  24. ^ "Meet the 106-Year-Old Who Got to Dance with the President and the First Lady". obamawhitehouse.archives.gov. February 22, 2016. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  25. ^ "#BlackHistoryMonth – Boxers 1/2". Northumberland Archives twitter feed. October 8, 2020. Archived from the original on October 8, 2020. Retrieved February 1, 2021.
  26. ^ Kalia, Ammar (October 8, 2019), "From emperors to inventors: the unsung heroes to celebrate in Black History Month", The Guardian. Archived November 30, 2020, at the Wayback Machine.
  27. ^ Addai-Sebo, Akyaaba (October 13, 2020). "Black children must be able to believe in themselves. That's what Black History Month is for". CNN. Archived from the original on November 6, 2020. Retrieved November 5, 2020.
  28. ^ Zamani, Kubara, "Akyaaba Addai-Sebo Interview" Archived April 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Every Generation Media, reproduced from New African magazine.
  29. ^ Wong, Ansel (September 28, 2017). "How did Black History Month come to the UK?". Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER). Archived from the original on February 11, 2022. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  30. ^ "Black History Month FAQ". Black History Month. Archived from the original on February 21, 2012. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  31. ^ Mohdin, Aamna (March 3, 2018). "'Political blackness': a very British concept with a complex history". Quartz.
  32. ^ Florvil, Tiffany (February 22, 2019). "Rethinking Black History Month in Germany".
  33. ^ canadien, Patrimoine (January 29, 2021). "Février est le Mois de l'histoire des Noirs". www.canada.ca.
  34. ^ "Black History Month 2022: What is it and why is it celebrated?". Al Jazeera. February 3, 2022. Retrieved February 7, 2023.
  35. ^ "How Ireland is celebrating its National Black History Month". IrishCentral.com. October 12, 2018. Archived from the original on October 14, 2018. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  36. ^ Elsa Provenzano (February 2, 2018). "Bordeaux: Lancement du premier Black History Month en France !". 20 minutes. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  37. ^ Eline Ulysse (February 5, 2022). "La Guadeloupe associée au 5ème "Black History Month" dédié cette année à Joséphine Baker". Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  38. ^ Pitre, Abul (November 3, 2002). "The Controversy Around Black History". The Western Journal of Black Studies. 26.
  39. ^ Hirsch, Afua (October 1, 2010). "Black History Month has to be more than hero worship". The Guardian. Archived from the original on September 17, 2013. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  40. ^ McCarter, William Matt (2012). "There is a White Sale at Macy's: Reflections on Black History Month". International Journal of Radical Critique. 1 (2). Archived from the original on September 3, 2014. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
  41. ^ "Stacey Dash says Morgan Freeman agrees with her views on Black History Month, ask for apology from 'Twitter haters'". TheGrio. January 27, 2016. Archived from the original on January 29, 2016.
  42. ^ "Freeman calls Black History Month 'ridiculous'". MSNBC. Associated Press. December 15, 2005. Archived from the original on July 7, 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  43. ^ "BLACK HISTORY THEMES". ASALH. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  44. ^ Yancey-Bragg, N'dea (February 1, 2023). "Why is Black History Month in February? How do you celebrate? Everything you need to know". USA Today. Retrieved May 14, 2023.
  45. ^ "Black History Month Library Guide | Black History Month Themes". Daenport University. Retrieved May 14, 2023.

Further reading

External links

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