In the US, February is dedicated to recognising famous African Americans and their achievements, but why is it celebrated in the shortest month of the year? To be completely honest with you, before conducting research into the reasons behind why February is dedicated to black achievement I was annoyed and disgusted. Frustrated at how society believes and dictates that our achievements should be celebrated within 28 or 29 days (if we’re lucky). I still believe this to an extent but understanding the history behind Black History Month and the significance that February holds has definitely allowed me to see things in a new light. Or at least understand another perspective. So, let’s get into the history behind Black History Month…
The antecedent to Black History Month was “Negro History Week”, which was established in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History during the second week of February (ASALH). Woodson, the creator of ASALH, was a well-respected academic who was concerned about the underrepresentation of Black people and their achievements.
The birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Fredrick Douglass were celebrated in the second week of February. On February 12th, President Abraham Lincoln was born, and on February 20th, Fredrick Douglass was born. Both men were pivotal characters in black history, influencing what it meant to be black in the nineteenth century. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves of the Confederacy, declaring that all slaves “are, and henceforth shall be free.” Fredrick Douglass was a famous abolitionist and counsellor to President Abraham Lincoln, whose autobiographies served as antislavery propaganda.
There you have it. That’s the reason as to why the US celebrates Black History Month in February.
Nevertheless, being in 2021, you would think that society would have got to the point already of realising that black history should be celebrated all year round and not just in a singular month. Our history should be published chronologically, with both white and black history represented on the pages. Despite the fact that Black people help build and establish what we now know as the United States of America, Black history is taught as an elective in most schools, as if it were an optional chapter of American history.
“History has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take a life of its own.Michelle Obama