Black History Month is celebrated because black people’s contributions to society have been largely overlooked in most historical contexts.
In the early 20th century, historian Carter G. Woodson chafed at the world’s silence on Black achievement. In a racist society that mischaracterized Black people and overlooked their contributions, he worked tirelessly to tell the world about their rich history. Woodson wanted the world to know about the complexity of the historical lives of people of African descent.
He had plenty of material to choose from.
Africans contributed to animal domestication as early as the 5th millennia B.C., developing complex societies in sometimes harsh conditions. Enslaved Africans fueled the global textile trade and managed to resist their oppressors in the process. incredible breakthroughs by African-American inventors, innovators and pioneers continue to serve society today, yet credit for such developments are often missing or intentionall excluded from the history books as it is today.
Black History Month has received official recognition from governments in the United States and Canada, and more recently has been observed in Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Black History Month has a different theme every year. Woodson believed providing a theme was essential to focus the public’s attention. The ASALH said it selects themes that “reflect changes in how people of African descent in the United States have viewed themselves, the influence of social movements on racial ideologies, and the aspirations of the Black community.”
What are the benefits of Black history? It helps to create unity by eliminating the divisive ideologies that exist between racial groups in America. It promotes the idea that Black history is a crucial element of world history. It supports the narrative that Black history and thereby Black people are valued in American culture.
The importance of black culture cannot be underestimated, due to its numerous contributions to our current society; from entertainment to beauty, to business, to leadership, and even politics. It has made the difference, promoted Black excellence, and made Black people all around the world proud.
THE THEME: BLACK RESISTANCE
The theme of this year’s Black History Month is Black Resistance. "Black resistance strategies have served as a model for every other social movement in the country, thus, the legacy and importance of these actions cannot be understated," the ASALH's website states. “Black Resistance,” explores how "African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms and police killings," since the nation's earliest days.
In September 1915, 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 Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Today, Black History Month is a time to honor the contributions and legacy of African Americans across U.S. history and society—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.
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