The History of Black History Month

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Today, February 1st, marks the start of Black History Month. During this month, African-American history is taught and celebrated in schools, on TV and in many aspects of daily life. Here is how the annual celebration came about in the first place.

In 1925, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an African-American historian who founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, proposed "Negro History Week" as a way to encourage people to learn more about black history. He chose a week in February that included the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and black abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

The first Negro History Week was celebrated in February 1926. "The response was overwhelming," says the Library of Congress. "Black history clubs sprang up; teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils; and progressive whites, not simply white scholars and philanthropists, stepped forward to endorse the effort."

In the early 1970s, Negro History Week was renamed Black History Week. Then, in 1976, Black History Week was expanded to a full month.

Every February since 1976, the U.S. president issues a proclamation declaring the second month of the year Black History Month or, as it is also called, National African American History Month.

African-American figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., Booker T. Washington, Jackie Robinson and Ella Fitzgerald are celebrated because they not only became prominent in their fields, they influenced the hearts and minds of an entire nation.  

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