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How Black History Month Started

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

Black History Month is in the shortest month of the year, and the coldest—just in case we want to have a parade."
- Chris Rock, comedian

Did you know that Black History Month used to be only one week? Contrary to popular belief, it was not chosen in February because it is the shortest month of the calendar year.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an American author and historian, is known as the "father of Black history." He was the first to introduce Black studies to academics and made popular in schools and colleges across the country. Throughout his career, Woodson wrote a number of books on African American subjects because felt African American history had been misrepresented and dismissed in academia. One important work was, "The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861," which was written by Woodson and Alexander L. Jackson.

Similarly, Woodson noticed that the general public knew little to nothing about the importance of Black history, and there was a gap in the educational system in the United States. He founded the Association for the Study of Negroes' Life and History (ASNLH) in 1915, which is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). This organization encourages academics to conduct in-depth research on black history and education. Before this, historians maintained a skewed view of Black people's influence and contributions to American and world history.

On February 7, 1926, Woodson started the first "Negro History Week" to celebrate and educate people about Black history, inspiring widespread celebrations and performances all over the United States. Furthermore, Woodson chose the second week of February to honor the birthdays of Frederick Douglass (Feb. 14) and Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12), as it wasn't uncommon for people to celebrate their birthdays during these times.

Every year, in the decades that followed, mayors and local politicians from all over the country began to proclaim, "Negro History Week" and hold celebrations. By the end of the 1960s, many historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) expanded "Negro History Week" into a month long celebration, "Negro History Month."

Now today in 2023, we celebrate "Black History Month" nationwide in varying ways. There are several ways to celebrate but to name a few, you can:

  • Support a black owned business

  • Visit a museum exhibit

  • Watch a film screening

  • Purchase, read and share books by Black authors

  • Learn about noteworthy Black leaders/figures and their achievements

With trending hashtags like, #BuyBlack or #MindingMyBlackOwnedBusiness it makes it even easier for people to connect with black owned businesses both locally and around the world. The next time you are searching for something online, try using one of these hashtags to look into purchasing from a black owned business!

The importance of understanding how far we have come in celebrating Black history in spaces where our ancestors were ignored or discriminated against, is as relevant today as it was in 1926. Maintaining an interest in history is essential because it provides context for the present. Black History Month offers a chance to explore Black history beyond those of racism and enslavement and to highlight Black accomplishment.

Follow @mmbob_inc on Instagram and “Minding My Black Owned Business” on Facebook to stay connected!

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