Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans. During this time, we not only honor the past and present triumphs, but recognize the central role of the black community in the United States.
Black History Month began back in 1915 when Carter G. Woodson (a Harvard-trained African American historian, educator, scholar and publisher) and prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). This organization was committed to researching and promoting achievements by not only black Americans, but people of African descent. Today, this group is referred to as the Study for African American Life and History (ASALH).
In 1926, ASALH sponsored a national Negro History week on the second week of February, which concurs with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. This week-long event sparked inspiration nationwide by schools and communities, which then organized local celebrations, history clubs and more. In the following decades, this week of celebration evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month. He called upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
While other countries around the globe also designate a month to celebrate African American history, February has been devoted to celebrating Black History Month in the United States since its official acknowledgment in 1976. Since then, every American president has chosen a theme to accompany the month-long celebration of black history.
This year in 2020, the Black History Month theme is, “African Americans and the Vote.” This theme was selected in honor of the centennial anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted American women the right to vote, and the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave African American men the right to vote in 1870.