In the United States, the month of February is known as Black History Month, an annual celebration of African American achievement and recognition of the group’s place in U.S. history. For other than U.S. citizens, there is also a month devoted to celebrating black culture around the world—including in Canada and the United Kingdom (UK).
Origins of Black History Month
The story of Black History Month begins in 1915, half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States.
In September of that year, Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), an organization dedicated to studying Black American history.
The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, or ASALH, formed a committee to create Negro History Week. The event took place during the second week of February, coinciding with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. During that time, schools and communities celebrate Negro History Week by hosting lectures and performances.
In the years following, mayors of cities across the country began proclaiming “Negro History Week.” By the late 1960s, thanks in part to the civil rights movement and a growing awareness of Black identity, the month of February became known as Black History Month on many college campuses.
President Gerald Ford officially declared February Black History Month, encouraging Americans to pay homage to the achievements of African Americans and their contribution to U.S. history. Today, the month is an opportunity to recognize the strides African Americans have made in all areas of life—from activists and civil rights pioneers such as Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Rosa Parks to leaders in industry, politics, science, culture and more.
Every American president since 1976 has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme.
The Black History Month 2022 theme, “Black Health and Wellness,” explores “the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birthworkers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora. The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well.”