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Black History Month

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For the song, see Black History Month (song).
Black History Month
US Navy 090226-N-4236E-047 Sailors and Marines watch a dance performance during a Black History Month celebration.jpg
United States Navy sailors and Marines watching a dance performance in celebration of Black History Month
Also called

African-American History Month

(in the United States)
Observed by United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany

Celebration of African-American history;

History of Africa
Date Months of February and October
Frequency annual

Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month in America, is an annual observance in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom for remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. It is celebrated annually in the United States[1] and Canada[2] in February, and the United Kingdom[3] in October.


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 announced the second week of February to be "Negro History Week."[1] This week was chosen because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and of Frederick Douglass on February 14, both of which dates Black communities had celebrated together since the late 19th century.[1]

From the event's initial phase, primary emphasis was placed on encouraging the coordinated teaching of the history of American blacks 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 and Washington, D.C..[4] Despite this far from universal acceptance, the event was regarded by Woodson as "one of the most fortunate steps ever taken by the Association," and plans for a repeat of the event on an annual basis continued apace.[4]

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 the race 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."[5]

By 1929 The Journal of Negro History was able to note that with only two exceptions, officials with the State Departments of Educations 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."[6] Churches also played a significant role in the distribution of literature in association with Negro History Week during this initial interval, with the mainstream and black press aiding in the publicity effort.[7]

Negro History Week was met with enthusiastic response; it prompted the creation of black history clubs, an increase in interest among teachers, and interest from progressive whites. Negro History Week grew in popularity throughout the following decades, with mayors across the United States endorsing it as a holiday.[1]

Black History Month (1976)

The expansion of Black History Week to Black History Month was first proposed by the leaders of the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. The first celebration of the Black History Month took place at Kent State one year later, in February 1970.[8]

In 1976 as part of the United States Bicentennial, the informal expansion of Negro History Week to Black History Month was officially recognized by the U.S. government. President Gerald Ford spoke in regards to this, urging Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."[9]

United Kingdom (1987)

Black History Month was first celebrated in the United Kingdom in 1987. It was organized through the leadership of Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who then served as a coordinator of special projects for the Greater London Council (GLC) and created a collaboration to get it underway.[10] It was first celebrated in London and has become a national institution.[3]

Canada (1995)

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 and honored Black Canadians. In 2008, Senator Donald Oliver moved to have the Senate officially recognize Black History Month, which was unanimously approved.[2]


Black History Month often sparks an annual debate about the continued usefulness and fairness of a designated month dedicated to the history of one race. Many people think that black history should be integrated with the remainder of US or British history, for instance. They also think this approach encourages the "hero worship" of some historical figures rather than a greater appreciation of the larger social history of communities and their contributions.[11]

Similarly, American actor and director Morgan Freeman has criticized Black History Month,[12] saying "I don't want a black history month. Black history is American history." Freeman has argued that there was no White History Month, because white people did not want their history relegated to just one month.[13]

See also

Other history months
Heritage months



  1. ^ a b c d Daryl Michael Scott, "The Origins of Black History Month," Association for the Study of African American Life and History, 2011,
  2. ^ a b "About Black History Month". Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Retrieved 14 February 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Black History Month FAQ". Black History Month. Retrieved 14 February 2012. 
  4. ^ a b C.G. Woodson, "Negro History Week," Journal of Negro History, vol. 11, no. 2 (April 1926), p. 238.
  5. ^ Woodson, "Negro History Week," p. 239.
  6. ^ "Negro History Week: The Fourth Year," Journal of Negro History, vol. 14, no. 2 (April 1929), p. 109.
  7. ^ "Negro History Week: The Fourth Year," p. 110.
  8. ^ 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. Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  9. ^ "President Gerald R. Ford's Message on the Observance of Black History Month". Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum. University of Texas. Retrieved 14 February 2012. 
  10. ^ Kubara Zamani, "Akyaaba Addai-Sebo Interview", Every Generation Media, reprinted from New African magazine.
  11. ^ Hirsch, Afua (30 September 2010). "Black History Month has to be more than hero worship". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 February 2012. 
  12. ^ Mccarter, William Matt (2012). "There is a White Sale at Macy's: Reflections on Black History Month". International Journal of Radical Critique 1 (2). Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  13. ^ "Freeman calls Black History Month 'ridiculous'". MSNBC. 15 December 2005. Retrieved 14 February 2012. 

Further reading

  • Derrick Bell, "Brown v. Board of Education and the Black History Month Syndrome," Harvard Blackletter Law Journal, vol. 1, no. 1 (1984), p. 13.
  • C. G. Woodson, "Negro History Week," Journal of Negro History, vol. 11, no. 2 (April 1926), pp. 238-242. In JSTOR.

External links