10 Facts About How Black History Month Got Started
This month of celebration started out as a weeklong event.
Each year Americans celebrate Black History Month by attending cultural events or learning about African American trailblazers in the arts, sciences, athletics and more. But many people have no idea how Black History Month got started. How long has Black History Month been celebrated? Who started Black History Month? Find out more below:
Black History Month was created by Harvard-educated historian Carter G. Woodson, who launched Negro History Week in 1926. That week would eventually become a month long cultural observance.
Woodson developed the idea for Negro History Week after finding that standard history texts either ignored the black experience or misrepresented it.
Both blacks and whites supported Woodson’s Negro History Week. Wealthy patrons even donated money to help spread the word about the event.
Negro History Week was celebrated in February because it encompasses the birthdays of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, bringing slavery in the U.S. to a halt.
Negro History Week celebrations continued after Woodson’s death in 1950. In fact, by the middle of the 20th century, mayors throughout the nation issued proclamations in recognition of Negro History Week.
The civil rights and black power movements stirred up more interest in Negro History Week, as many blacks not only sought to be treated equally during this time but also wanted to have the contributions blacks made to the United States recognized by the public.
Twenty-six years after Woodson’s death, the federal government passed legislation for a national observance of Black History Month.
Since Black History Month’s inception in 1976, each U.S. president has issued proclamations in honor of the event.
In 1978, the U.S. Postal Service began issuing black heritage stamps in honor of Black History Month. The first year that the stamp series was introduced, Harriet Tubman was featured. The U.S. Postal Service says that the black heritage stamp series is one of its most popular and that it has had to release a greater quantity of such stamps to meet public demand.
Some high-profile blacks such as Morgan Freeman have argued that Black History Month is insulting because it reduces black contributions to history to a mere 28 days. Before his death, however, Woodson reportedly envisioned a Negro History Year.
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