African-Americans have been a large part of this country’s history since 1619 when they were first brought to America and subsequently forced to become slaves or indentured servants.
According to The History of Black History Web site, “Black history had barely begun to be studied–or even documented–when the tradition originated.
Although blacks have been in America at least as far back as colonial times, it was not until the 20th century that they gained a respectable presence in the history books.”
Prior to 1926, African-Americans were not included in US history books because they were not considered to be a race that made any significant contribution to the nation’s history.
However, all that changed in 1926 when Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, as well as the Journal of Negro History, established Negro History Week during the 2nd week in February.
According to The History of Black History, Woodson launched the week “as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history.”
The celebration eventually became known as Black History Month in 1976 during the United States’ Bicentennial celebration.
Dr. Woodson chose to celebrate Negro History Week during the second week of February because the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, two of America’s most prominent abolitionists, fell within this time period.
In addition, W.E.B. Dubois, co-founder of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People, was born in February of 1868.
Furthermore, February also marked the passing of the 15th Amendment (1870), the induction of the first black senator, Hiram Revels (1870) and the founding of the NAACP (1909).
In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,”Martin Luther King Jr. said: “We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.”
Black History Month is a reminder of determination and struggles to change attitudes and increase the awareness of the African-American tradition.
For more information on the origins of Black History Month visit The History of Black History Web site at https://parents.infoplease.com/spot/bhmintro1.html.
Jillian Swanson can be reached at XoXSwansoniteXoX@aol.com.