How Negro History Week became Black History Month

Cheryl E Preston

Negro History Week

Every February, in recent years, some African Americans say in regard to black history; 'They gave us the shortest month." The implication is that somehow blacks have been shortchanged regarding the history of those who descended from Africans who were enslaved in the United States. This is not true as there were no non-blacks involved in starting this annual event. It began with an educated African American male who got the ball rolling which led to the February observance.

In 1926, historian Carter G. Woodson in conjunction with The Association For The Study of Negro Life and History decided that the second week of February would become "Negro History Week". The reason this particular week was chosen is that it coincided with the birth dates of two men who were important to newly freed slaves. Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12 and Frederick Douglas on day 14 of the second month and African American communities had been celebrating both dates since the 19th century.
Photo byYoutube the grio screenshot

Carter G Woodson's efforts pay off

Negro History Week became the center of this equation but the exact details behind this idea were never recorded. There are scholars who believe there are two reasons for the inception of Negro History Week: Importance and recognition. Carter G Woodson felt very strongly that this one week would eventually lead the movement to become an annual celebration. From the beginning, this event's primary focus was to encourage the coordinated teaching of the history of African America in public schools across the USA.

The first Negro History Week was met with a lukewarm reception but had the cooperation of the Departments of Education of the states of Delaware, West Virginia, and North Carolina. The city school administrations of Washington DC and Baltimore were also supportive. According to The Journal of Negro History, just three years after Carter G Woodson's efforts began to pay off.

In 1929, officials within the State Department of Education of every state with a decent black population, (except two) made Negro History week known to that state's teachers and gave them official literature that promoted the event. Churches were also instrumental in distributing information that was associated with observing Negro History Week. Both the mainstream and black press were key in promoting this special week.
President Geral Ford signed Black History into lawPhoto byThe grio screenshot Youtube

Black History Month begins

Negro History Week grew in popularity during the decades that followed and was endorsed by mayors across America as a holiday. Celebrating Black History for an entire month was first proposed in 1969, by African American students and black faculty members at Kent State. The first celebration of Black History Month took place one year later at Kent State.

Six years after this, in 1976 Black History Month was being celebrated all across the country in community centers, educational institutions, and centers of Black culture. During the nation's bicentennial celebration, President Gerald Ford acknowledged Black History Month, and admonished Americans to take advantage of the opportunity to honor the accomplishments of African Americans that have for too long been neglected,

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I write, about breaking news, and current events. I wrote a newspaper column from 1997 to 2007 and have written for various online platforms since 2012 including Yahoo Contributor Network, Hubpages, and Vocal Media.

Roanoke, VA

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