We all know that February is Black History Month but did you know that Black History Month was first proposed by black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. The first celebration took place at Kent State one year later in 1970.
The story of Black History month begins in Chicago during the summer of 1915. Carter G. Woodson and many friends traveled from Washington, D.C. to participate in a national celebration of the 50th anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the state of Illinois. Thousands of African Americans traveled from across the country to see exhibits highlighting the progress their people had made since the destruction of slavery. There was an overflow of between 6000 to 12,000 people who waited patiently outside the building to view the exhibits. Inspired by the three-week long celebration, Woodson decided to form an organization to promote the scientific study of black life and history before leaving town.
In the 1940s, efforts began slowly within the black community to expand the study of black history in the schools. During the Civil Rights Movement in the South, the Freedom Schools incorporated black history into the curriculum to advance social change. The Negro History movement was an intellectual insurgency that was part of every larger effort to transform race relations.
The 1960s had a dramatic effect on the study and celebration of black history. Before the decade was over, Negro History Week would become Black History Month.
“What Carter G. Woodson would say about the continued celebrations is unknown, but he would smile on all honest efforts to make black history a field of serious study and provide the public with thoughtful celebrations.” Daryl Michael Scott, Professor of History, Howard University
May we all use history as a learning lesson to better our future.