Posted by: Professionals In Human Resources Association (PIHRA) | January 28, 2010

February is Black History Month

In 1915, Dr. Carter G. Woodson and Rev. Jesse E. Moorland co-founded the
Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). Their goal was to
research and bring awareness to the largely ignored, yet crucial role black
people played in American and world history. The following year, Woodson
published and distributed his findings in The Journal of Negro History. He
founded the publication with the hope that it would dispel popular mistruths. He
also hoped to educate black people about their cultural background and instill
them with a sense of pride in their race.

The son of former slaves and the second black person to receive a degree from
Harvard University, Carter Woodson understood the value of education. He also
felt the importance of preserving one’s heritage and, upon his urgings, the
fraternity Omega Psi Phi created Negro History and Literature Week in 1920. In
1926, Woodson changed the name to Negro History Week. He selected the month of
February for the celebration as a way to honor of the birth of two men whose
actions drastically altered the future of black Americans. Abraham Lincoln, the
U.S. President who issued the Emancipation Proclamation was born on February
12th and Frederick Douglass, one of the nation’s leading abolitionists was born
on February 14th.

Woodson and the ANSLH provided learning materials to teachers, black history
clubs and the community at large. They also published photographs that depicted
important figures in black culture, plays that dramatized black history, and
reading materials.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson died in 1950, but his legacy continued on as the
celebration of Negro History Week was adopted by cities and organizations across
the country. This observance proved especially important during the Civil Rights
Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, a time when the inhumane and unequal treatment
of black people in America was being challenged and overturned.

The Black Power Movement of the 1970’s emphasized racial pride and the
significance of collective cultural values. This prompted the ASNLH, now called
the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, to change
Negro History Week to Black History Week. In 1976, they extended the week to a
month-long observance.

Black History Month is now recognized and widely celebrated by the entire nation
on both a scholarly and commercial level. The Association for the Study of
African American Life and History continues to promote, preserve and research
black history and culture year-round.


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