Celebrating Black History Month

Who Started Black History Month?

During the dawning of the twentieth century, it was widely presumed that people of African descent had little history besides the subjugation of slavery. Credit for the evolving awareness of the true place of Blacks in history can, in large part, be bestowed upon Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950).

What is now known as Black History Month started out as Black History Week, and was created thanks to Carter G. Woodson. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in 1915, which was then the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and in 1916 the Journal of Negro History, now the Journal of African American History.

He announced Negro History Week would take place in February of 1926, and the response was overwhelming, according to the association. Teachers across the nation wanted to celebrate and requested materials for their students, like photos, lessons, plays for historical performances, and posters with important dates and people.

Why is Black History Month in February?

Woodson chose the month of February because many Black Americans were already celebrating the February birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, on Feb. 12 and 14, respectively.

Woodson hoped this would help the week succeed, but he also hoped it would reform the tradition from studying the accomplishments of two men to studying the accomplishments of an entire race.

Why is Black History Month important?

Woodson started the annual observance to expose school children to black history, and in the hope that Black Americans and others would be able to see all of the contributions Blacks had made “to the advance of human civilization,” according to the association.

What is the Theme for 2024?

The 2024 theme is “African Americans and the Arts” spanning the many impacts Black Americans have had on visual arts, music, cultural movements, and more. We encourage you to celebrate Black History Month with Smithsonian events, resources, exhibitions, and podcasts. They can be found here.

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