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History of Black History Month

For decades, we have taken the month of February to recognize achievements made by the African American community and how they impact America as we know it today. Why and how did this come about? Why was the month of February chosen? Let's get into the thick of it:


Founders of Black History Month


Carter G. Woodson

In 1915 historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) which changed its name to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) in 1926. This group dedicated their work to recognizing and promoting achievements done by Black Americans. In 1926, ASALH decided to sponsor 1 week in February dedicated to their cause and called it "Negro History Week". Carter chose February in honor of two men's birthdays who propelled the African American journey forward: Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass. The event was a huge success and inspired schools and cities to follow suit to discuss their local black history and pave way to the creation of local clubs.

Minister Jesse E. Moorland

After multiple mayors in multiple cities around the Nation added "National Negro Week" to their celebration, it continued to roll into a month-long recognition. Then in 1976, 38th President Gerald Ford recognized February as "Black History Month". In President Ford's speech, he stated:



"...seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."

So, why were Lincoln and Douglass so important to the African American progress in America? Why was it important to recognize February as Black History Month?


Abraham Lincoln


Signing the Emancipation Proclamation

Abraham Lincoln, born February 12, 1809, was an important man who created and enacted the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation would declare enslaved people under Confederate control "forever free". Lincoln stayed true to his word as 2 years later he used his capital to push for the 13th Amendment through Congress, permanently abolishing slavery in the United States. Abraham continued to give speeches and advocate for black men having the right to vote. One man who listened to his speech, by the name of John Wilkes Booth, was irate with Lincoln's devotion and assassinated Lincoln 3 days after his speech.


Frederick Douglass


Frederick Douglass' birthday is unknown due to being born in slavery in 1818 and slaves not having records of birth. Douglass chose February 14th as his birthday. Another interesting fact about Frederick is his real name is Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. Frederick chose his last name from the poem "Lady of the Lake" by Sir Walter Scott.


With the help of the Slave owner's wife, Sophia, Frederick learned how to read. Something most slaves did not have the luxury to do. Frederick knew the importance of learning and being educated. He was self-motivated and took on knowledge from everywhere he could find it. Because he knew education was important, Douglass started to teach other slaves how to read which made slave owners upset. Douglass would receive multiple beatings for teaching slaves but that did not sway him to stop.


Throughout his childhood clear into his early adulthood, Frederick found himself sold and traded from slave owner to slave owner. In this he experienced both 'nice' and evil owners where he learned to see the character of human nature. It was when he turned 20, in 1838, he found a way to escape slavery though he didn't discuss it to protect not only those who helped him but also slaves that would follow in his footsteps. The one quote he did have of his escape was:


"The dreams of childhood and purposes of manhood were now fulfilled. A free state around me, and a free earth under my feet! What a moment was this to me. A whole year pressed into a single day... I felt as one might be supposed to feel, on escaping from a den of hungry lions. But, in a moment like that, sensations are too intense and too rapid for words. Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain , may be described, but joy and gladness, like the rainbow of promise, defy like pen and pencil."

Published in Dublin, Ireland

After 3 years of gaining his Freedom, Frederick joined forces with William Lloyd Garrison, and abolitionist and publisher of "The Liberator" to speak on the hardships of slavery. Due to how well Douglass spoke, many didn't believe he was a former slave. Douglass would give names and accounts of the former slave owners but afterward moved to Great Britain so the former slave owners could not find him. He spent most of his time in Ireland. In that time, he continued to speak on the hardships of slavery. He gained respect and many followers by being published in 'Quaker Printer' a Dublin newspaper, which raised enough money for Frederick to go back to the United States and buy his freedom.



After he was completely free, Frederick became a successful speaker, writer, businessman, statesman, and President of a bank. In addition to this he started his own newspaper and helped with the Underground Railroad. Douglass became an advocate for woman's rights as well as a recruiter for the Civil War. Inside the Civil War he would counsel Abraham Lincoln while holding multiple government positions. The people respected and trusted Douglass so much, they wrote him in a ballot as Vice President without his knowledge. It is from Frederick's devotion to justice for mankind where his livelihood has spanned through the U.S., U.K., and Ireland where Black History Month is recognized.




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