February 1st marks the start of Black History Month, an important time to honor the great achievements, contributions and struggles of the black community in the United States. Your children will be studying it in school and bringing home Black History homework, and it will be featured in a wide array of events, exhibits, articles and TV specials. But how and when did Black History month start, and what’s it all about? Here are 10 Black History Month Facts you should know: 1. Time set aside to honor Black History started back in 1915.
2. In 1926 it was just a week long and was called Negro History Week. It occurred during the second month of February to coincide with the birth dates of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass.
3. In the 1960s, due in part to the civil rights movement, the celebration grew from a week to a month. This evolution reportedly started to take place on college campuses.
4. Since 1976, every president has deemed the month of February “Black History Month.”
5. The first to make the proclamation was Gerald R. Ford who said that this was a time to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
6. It was once called “Negro History Week” and was the creation of the noted historian Carter G. Woodson alongside other prominent African Americans. They started the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) – “an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by black Americans and other peoples of African descent.” Now the organization is called the “Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).
7. The United States isn’t the only country that celebrates black history month. Other countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom do as well.
8. Each year there is a different theme. For 2011 the theme is “African Americans and the Civil War.”
9. Every year during Black History Month there are events and exhibitions scheduled to mark this celebration, and in school there is a special course of study to pay homage to the month.
10. In a declaration from 2010, President Obama talked of the importance of Black History Month:
“This month, we recognize the courage and tenacity of so many hard-working Americans whose legacies are woven into the fabric of our Nation. We are heirs to their extraordinary progress. Racial prejudice is no longer the steepest barrier to opportunity for most African Americans, yet substantial obstacles remain in the remnants of past discrimination. Structural inequalities — from disparities in education and health care to the vicious cycle of poverty — still pose enormous hurdles for black communities across America. Overcoming today’s challenges will require the same dedication and sense of urgency that enabled past generations of African Americans to rise above the injustices of their time.”
How will you celebrate Black History Month?