Every February, the United States celebrates the achievements and history of African Americans as part of Black History Month.
In 1915, in response to the lack of information on the accomplishments of Black people available to the public, historian Carter G. Woodson co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The organization declared the second week of February as “Negro History Week” to recognize the contributions of African Americans to United States history. Few people studied Black history and it was not part of textbooks prior to the creation of Negro History Week.
The second week of February was chosen because it includes the birthdays of both abolitionist Frederick Douglass and former United States president Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln led the United States during the Civil War, which was primarily fought over the enslavement of Black people in the country.
The week-long event officially became Black History Month in 1976 when then United States president Gerald Ford extended the recognition to “honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Since then, Black History Month has been celebrated in the United States every February.
Black History Month was created to focus attention on the contributions of African Americans to the United States. 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.
Dr. Martin Luth King, Jr., who fought for equal rights for Blacks during the 1950s and ’60s, is often highlighted during Black History Month. Also, Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American justice appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1967, is remembered as well as Mae Jemison, who became the first female African-American astronaut to travel to space in 1992.
Other countries have joined the United States in celebrating Black people and their contributions to history, including Canada, England, Germany and the Netherlands. Many people and organizations encourage the study of achievements by African Americans year-round and not just in February.