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Black History Month "In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute."

These words, spoken by Thurgood Marshall, the first African American U.S. Supreme Court member, aptly summarize a critical reason for all Americans to recognize, embrace, and learn about Black History Month every year. Now is the time to re-familiarize yourself with the heritage of Black History Month to recognize the contributions of those Americans who have made, and continue to make, significant impacts on our country.

What is Black History Month?

Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, was established to pay tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society. Harvard-trained historian and founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) Carter G. Woodson hoped to raise awareness of African Americans’ contributions to civilization. To further his goals, he announced the first Negro History Week in February of 1925. Woodson chose a week that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

The initial response to Woodson’s efforts was overwhelming, as citizens formed black history clubs, teachers requested classroom instructional materials, and progressive whites endorsed the educational efforts. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s further amplified awareness for black history education and Woodson’s dreams. In 1976, what was once a week-long celebration expanded to one month. Every year since then, Woodson’s organization—which today is known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)—continues to promote and enable the study of black history.

Why Do We Celebrate Black History Month?

Today, it is as critical for Americans of all ages, races, and ethnicities to celebrate Black History Month as it was when Woodson first pursued a week of education and remembrance. It is only through the reflection on the past that we can understand our present and set goals for the future. It is also only through the understanding and appreciation of all of the cultures, religions, races, and ethnicities that make America such a uniquely diverse country that we can move toward greater cultural acceptance, and generations of Americans who embrace not only their similarities but their differences. It is essential to give a global perspective of the people and cultures that have shaped our nation to appreciate the struggles and challenges of African Americans and the oppression they faced, and to build a generation that is more accepting and inclusive than ever before.

Black History Month