Written By: Prince William County
Black History Month, now called African American History Month, was established in 1976 by President Gerald Ford to recognize the contributions African Americans have made over more than 400 years in communities across the nation.
The origins of Black History Month date to 1926 when Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro History proclaimed the second week February as Negro History Week. The week coincided with President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12 and Frederick Douglass’ birthday on Feb. 14.
Woodson believed that the nation’s school children should learn the history of black Americans and that teaching that history was an essential in ensuring that the intellectual and physical survival of the race.
Black United Students and black educators at Kent State University in Ohio proposed Black History Month in 1969. A year later, the first Black History Month celebration was held at Kent State.
Today, communities across the country recognize African History Month with celebrations that spotlight Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s, Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, Mae Jemison, the first African American astronaut to fly into space and Barack Obama, the country’s first African American President.
Other ways to recognize the month include visiting museums, watching films featuring African American artists and studying the achievements of African Americans.
Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom all celebrate the contributions black people have made to their countries.