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Since 1976, every president has issued a national decree designating February as Black History Month to recognize the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. Black History Month is more than a celebration. It is also the time to reflect on the continued struggle for racial justice in the country.
How did this celebration start, and why is it celebrated in February?
Black History Month was first conceived when Carter G. Woodson, a historian who received his Ph.D. at Harvard, and Jesse Moorland founded the “Association of Negro Life and History" in 1915. This organization aimed at celebrating African American's accomplishments. It also promoted studying Black history as its own discipline.
To ensure African Americans are part of American History, the two scholars launched a “Negro History Week" in 1926. They choose the second week of February because it was the week both Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln were born.
By the 1960s, universities and colleges changed the week into a month-long celebration of Black History on Campus. The official recognition, however, came in 1976 when President Gerald Ford signed a decree making Black History Month a national observance.
Now, Black History Month has been adopted by counties across the world including Canada and the United Kingdom.
Every year, there is a Black History month theme. The themes reflect the ambitions of African Americans as well as how race influences social movements. This year focuses on “Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity"
From electing the first Black vice president to an unprecedented push for racial justice, this past year brought many historic events for African Americans. This year, Black people also suffered significant hurdles. Police brutality, job losses, and disproportionate deaths from COVID-related illnesses were just some of the challenges affecting African Americans.
So, while celebrating the countless achievements of Black men and women throughout history, it is also equally important to push for change and work towards creating a community that is racially just.