Why was February Chosen to be called Black History Month?
Two famous abolitionists and social reformers were born during the month of February. 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”. 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. The abolitionists are President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, both born during the second of week of February, which led Woodson to designate it as a time of celebration and remembrance.
In honor of their lives, historian Carter Woodson began the first formal celebration of “Negro History Week” in February 1926. Woodson was an educator, author, avid researcher and advocate for proliferating the breadth of Black history.
In 1970, activists at Kent State University Black History Month and President Gerald Ford formally recognized it six years later during the United States Bicentennial celebration.
Woodson coordinated a national theme for the celebration each year. The theme for celebrating Black History Month in 2018 is “African Americans in Times of War.” Highlighting the centennial of the end of the first world war in 1918, this topic looks at the contradictions faced by African Americans who gave their lives for the safety and freedom of their country. While enlisting could offer opportunities for advancement, many African Americans returned home to Jim Crow segregation, violence, and exclusion.
Woodson’s devotion to historical research created an immense legacy, with publications and organizations he began still operating to support education regarding those throughout the African diaspora and their many achievements. More information about the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, founded by Woodson in 1915 can be found here.