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The History of
Black History Month



Carter G. Woodson was the son of former enslaved Africans James and Eliza Riddle Woodson. He gained a master’s degree at the University of Chicago in 1908, and in 1912, he received a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History” started Negro History week in 1926, which later became
Black History Month.



February was chosen as the month to observe Black history because it is the birth month of abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass  (Feb. 14) and President Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12).



Woodson believed rather than only focusing on a few men and women in America, the Black community should focus on the countless Black men and women around the world who had contributed to the advancement of human civilization.



In the 1930s because of Negro History Week’s popularity, it quickly became commercialized. Book publishers who would normally ignore Black topics rushed to put books on the market and in schools.  Intellectuals popped up everywhere and would seize the opportunity to charge for speeches, taking advantage of the public interest in Black history.



Because of the widespread interest in Black history, during the Civil Rights Movement in the South,
some schools incorporated Black history into the curriculum with the hope of starting an intellectual movement that would advance social change.



Prior to his death in 1950, Woodson pressed schools to shift from studying Black history one week a year to studying Black history throughout the year. Woodson’s ultimate goal was to have Black people learn of their past all year so that the annual celebration would no longer be necessary.



In 1976, 50 years after the first celebration, President Gerald Ford expanded Negro History Week to
Black History Month.



Countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history.

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