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Black History Month

Every year, Black History Month serves as a time to honour the accomplishments of African Americans and to acknowledge their crucial role in American history. Known by another name, African American History Month, it originated as “Negro History Week,” an idea that notable historian Carter G. Woodson and other African Americans came up with. Every American president since 1976 has proclaimed February to be Black History Month. In addition to the United States and Canada, other nations also set aside a month to honour Black history.

Origins of Black History Month

Half a century after slavery was outlawed in the US by the Thirteenth Amendment, Black History Month’s history began in 1915.

In September of that year, the eminent clergyman Jesse E. Moorland and the Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), a group devoted to documenting and elevating the accomplishments of African Americans and other people of African descent.

The organisation, which is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), organised a national Negro History Week in 1926. They picked the second week of February to correspond with Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays. The occasion served as inspiration for local celebrations, the founding of history clubs, performances, and lectures in schools and communities across the country.

Over the ensuing decades, “Negro History Week” proclamations were issued annually by city mayors across the nation. By the late 1960s, “Negro History Week” had transformed into Black History Month on many college campuses, partly due to the civil rights movement and an increasing consciousness of Black identity.

With a call to “seize the opportunity to honour the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavour throughout our history,” President Gerald Ford officially declared 1976 to be Black History Month. Black History Month honours the contributions and legacy of African Americans in American history and society today, ranging from leaders in business, politics, science, and culture to activists and civil rights pioneers like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks.

Black History Month 2023 Theme

Every American president since 1976 has declared February to be Black History Month and supported a particular theme.

“Black Resistance,” the theme for Black History Month in 2023, examines how, since the founding of the country, “African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings.”

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