by State Representative
Leon D. Young
This week, we commence the celebration of Black History Month.
We owe an eternal debt of gratitude to Dr. Carter G. Woodson for his diligence and hard work.
Because of his lifelong endeavor to chronicle Black achievements as a serious, scholarly undertaking, the month of February is designated as Black History Month. Dr. Woodson believed that if whites were made aware of the extraordinary contributions of African Americans, then race relations in this country might improve.
With that being said, most people are basically unaware of the historical evolution that ultimately led to 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.
That September, the Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by black Americans and other peoples of African descent.
Known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the group sponsored a national Negro History week in 1926, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
The event inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs and host performances and lectures.
In the decades that followed, mayors of cities across the country began issuing yearly proclamations recognizing Negro History Week.
By the late 1960s, thanks in part to the Civil Rights Movement and a growing awareness of Black identity, Negro History Week had evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses.
President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the often neglected accomplishments of African Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.
Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history.
There’s a great deal of truth to the old expression: You have to know where you have been, in order to know where you are going.
Remembering our collective Black past has many constructive benefits.
In the final analysis, we are all indebted to Dr. Carter G. Woodson.