Meet The Man Who Created Black History Month
Black History Month
Meet the man who
created Black History
While for us in the U.K. October marks Black History Month, however in the US its February that is a federally recognized, nationwide celebration that calls on all Americans to reflect on the significant roles that African-Americans have played in shaping US history. But how did this celebration come to be – and why does it happen in February in US and October in the U.K?
The man behind the holiday
Carter G. Woodson, considered a pioneer in the study of African-American history, is given much of the credit for Black History Month.
The son of former slaves, Woodson spent his childhood working in coal mines and quarries. He received his education during the four-month term that was customary for black schools at the time.
At 19, having taught himself English fundamentals and arithmetic, Woodson entered high school, where he completed a four-year curriculum in two years. He went on to earn his master’s degree in history from the University of Chicago and later earned a doctorate from Harvard.
How the holiday came about
Disturbed that history textbooks largely ignored America’s black population, Woodson took on the challenge of writing black Americans into the nation’s history.
To do this, he established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. He also founded the group’s widely respected publication, the Journal of Negro History.
In 1926, Woodson developed Negro History Week. He believed “the achievements of the Negro properly set forth will crown him as a factor in early human progress and a maker of modern civilization.”
In 1976, Negro History Week expanded into Black History Month.
Why he picked February
Woodson chose the second week of February for his celebration because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the black American population:
- Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery and became an abolitionist and civil rights leader; though his birthdate isn’t known, he celebrated it on February 14.
- President Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which abolished slavery in America’s confederate states; he was born on February 12.
For his work, Woodson has been called the Father of Black History.
A version of this story was first published in 2007.
However in the U.K when we think of Black History month in Britain it is still very common for us to celebrate the works of famous Black American Civil Rights activists like Martin Luther King, and Rosa Parks. However, what we now need to do is take a leaf out of Woodsons book and focus on the massive influence that Black people, activists and members of our community have had on our own country. We only started celebrating Black History month in the U.K. in October 1987. Of course influenced by the February Black History celebrations in the USA, However a Ghanaian-born Akyaaba Addai Sebo, a special projects officer at the Greater London Council founded the UK version of Black History month. This was a chance to recognise the important black contribution in this country.
Black History month is celebrated in the U.K. in October for both symbolic and pragmatic reasons. There are a number of symbolic reasons that have been given. Firstly, October is when African chiefs and leaders gather to settle their differences so this month was chosen to reconnect with black peoples’ roots on the continent. It was also first held in 1987, as it was the 150th anniversary of Caribbean emancipation. On a pragmatic level, it is also when most schools are back after the holidays and so Black History Month provides an early opportunity to study the significant contributions that those with black heritage have made to British life.
What we would say however, is that the celebration of black history should be a permanent feature in schools’ curriculum on any given school day wether in October, February or March it should be embedded all year round.
- Host an interactive team building event.
- Create a Black History Month playlist.
- Buy employees lunch from a Black-owned restaurant.
- Volunteer with a Black-led nonprofit.
- Amplify Black voices on social media.
With all that having been said, We love BHM unapologetically.
Article By Alton Anderson