February marks the annual observance of Black History Month, a federally recognized, nationwide celebration that honors the triumphs and struggles of African Americans throughout U.S. history. Furthermore, the month sheds light on the massive influence Black men and women have held in shaping the world around them. It is not a random occurrence that February is the month for this remembrance.
Carter G. Woodson, a pioneer in the study of African-American history, is widely accredited for the recognition of Black History Month. Founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, he was one of the first scholars to study the history of the African diaspora, including African-American history.
Woodson was born on December 19, 1875, in New Canton, Virginia as the fourth of seven children. As the son of former slaves, Woodson’s childhood was spent working in coal mines and quarries. He later received his formal education during the four-month term that was routine for black schools at the time.
By 19, Woodson taught himself English fundamentals and arithmetic. HE entered highschool shortly after where he completed a four-year curriculum in two years. He then went on to earn a master’s degree in history from the University of Chicago, which laid the foundation for his journey to obtaining a doctorate from Harvard in 1912. He was the second African American to earn a Ph.D. from the prestigious institution, after Du Bois.
Black History Month is derived from Woodson’s innate sense to spearhead change. He was deeply disturbed by the censorship he witnessed in textbooks. These books largely buried America’s Black population by disregarding an enormous part of history. Woodson took on the challenge of writing black Americans into the nation’s history.
He began by establishing the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. He later founded the group’s largely respected publication, the Journal of Negro History. By 1926, Negro History Week was in full effect, which celebrated the historic contributions of Black people. He believed “the achievements of the Negro properly set forth will crown him as a factor in early human progress and a maker of modern civilization.”
The formation of Negro History Week catapulted the creation of Black History Month in 1976.
Woodson chose the month of February, specifically the second week, because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the black American population. Those men are Fredrick Douglas, who celebrated his birthday on February 14th, and President Abrahama Lincoln, born February 12th. Woodson’s contributions led him to be recognized and respected as the Father of Black History.
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