The History of Black History Month

The story behind an almost century-long celebration.

Stalee Sheaffer, Photography Editor

National Black History Month started in 1926 under President Carter G. Woodson. It began as a Black History Week, and was planned to correspond with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglas during the second week of February.
“Black History Month was created to focus attention on the contributions of African Americans to the United States,” says National Geographic Kids. “It honors all Black people from all periods of U.S. history, from the enslaved people first brought over from Africa in the early 17th century to African Americans living in the United States today.”
Black History Week sparked celebrations nationwide throughout schools and communities. They hosted lectures, performances, and established history clubs.
It wasn’t until 1976 that Black History Week became a month-long celebration. Due to the influence of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, then President Gerald Ford, called upon American citizens to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Since 1976, every U.S. President has officially delegated February as Black History Month and since 1926 other countries have joined in on the celebrations. Canada, Germany, the U.K., Ireland, and the Netherlands have all adopted their own celebrations of Black History Month.
Each year, the president chooses a new theme. This year, President Biden chose “Black Resistance”. The theme for Black History Month is meant to focus the public’s attention.
“African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings since our arrival upon these shores,” says the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. “These efforts have been to advocate for a dignified self-determined life in a just democratic society in the United States and beyond the United States political jurisdiction.”
Black resistance has been a long-term battle fought by African Americans. Highlighting this battle can bring awareness to those who have not fought the battle themselves.