Black History Month commences in February with formal celebrations that pay tribute to many milestones, such as the birth of Frederick Douglass,Langston Hughes, Eubie Blake as well as W.E.B. Dubois an important civil rights leader. Black History Month also commemorates some key anniversaries, such as the passing of the 15th amendment; the swearing in of the first black U.S. senator, Hiram R. Revels; and the assassination of the militant leader, Malcolm X.
Many people take time to reflect upon the achievements of African Americans throughout U.S. history, but not many people know how it all came to be. In 1926, an eminent African American scholar named Dr. Carter Woodson established 'Negro History Week' which was meant to highlight the contributions that African Americans had made to U.S. history. This particular week was chosen in February because it coincided with the birthdays of Fredrick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln - two men who had greatly impacted the black population. Soon after, the week was extended to include the entire month, as African Americans finally became recognized as an important part of the history of this country.
Dr. Woodson himself is quite an impressive historical personality; he worked in the coal mines of Kentucky until age 20, when he began high school. He completed his course work in 2 years, and soon after earned a Ph.D. from Harvard. During his studies he was disheartened to find very little about African Americans in the history books of the time, and often when there was reference to the black experience, they were unfair and inaccurate. To combat the lack of information available, Dr. Woodson established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now called the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History) in 1915, and a short time after, founded the well-respected Journal of Negro History.
So from Dr. Woodson's desire to give African Americans their proper place in history, we now have a nationally-recognized month dedicated to this worthy cause. It just goes to show you that one man can have a profound effect on this country if his motivations run deep enough.
Important dates in February to remember:
February 1, 1960 - In what later became a civil rights movement milestone, a group of African American Greensboro, NC, college students began a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter.
February 3, 1870 - The 15th amendment was passed, granting African Americans the right to vote.
February 12th, 1965 - Malcolm X, the militant leader who promoted Black Nationalism, was assassinated by three African American Muslims.
February 23rd, 1868 - W.E.B. DuBois, important civil rights leader and co-founder of the NAACP, was born.
February 25th, 1909 - The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded by a group of influential African Americans and Caucasians in New York City.