Black History Month, celebrating the progress

What is Black History Month all about?

Black History Month (BHM) is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans that the United States has designated as the time to recognize African Americans for their central role and contributions to U.S. history. This celebration stems from the important work of Carter G. Woodson, who launched "Negro History Week" to promote the studying of African American history as a discipline and celebration of the accomplishments of many great Black heroes. Although February has been chosen as the period to celebrate the fullness of African Americans who have inspired change through activism, education, and innovation, as Dr. Tonya M. Matthews, President and CEO of the International African American Museum in Charleston, SC, reminds us "... 28 days is simply not long enough to celebrate the entire history of the African American journey but taking the time to highlight stories of resilience, joy, triumph, passion, freedom, and love will hopefully fuel a passion for renewed curiosity that will carry on well beyond the single month of February...."  


NAACP Foundation

How did the movement begin?

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was established on February 12, 1909, by a diverse group of individuals committed to advocating for the civil rights of African Americans. Identifying as The Call, the association emerged from the collaboration of 32 African Americans who united to address the challenges faced by this minority in the United States due to prevalent segregation. The inaugural conference of the Niagara Movement led to the formation of the National Negro Committee, which played a pivotal role in drafting a charter advocating for the rights of black individuals.  


Black History Week Established

When was BHM first introduced?

The inception of the initial Black History Week occurred during the second week of February, aligning with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14). This observance was organized by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), co-founded by historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland. The primary focus from the outset was to promote the inclusion of Black American history in the curriculum of the nation's public schools. This endeavor garnered participation from the following states North Carolina, Delaware, and West Virginia, as well as cities including Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.


First Observance Month

When did everything change?

In 1969, African American educators and students at Kent State University proposed the idea of Black History Month not knowing if it would ever be a reality. Unbeknowth, the inaugural observance occurred just a year later, spanning from January 2 to February 28, 1970. That's right. It lasted for two whole months! In 1976, President Gerald Ford formally acknowledged Black History Month. The black community embraced this recognition enthusiastically, prompting nationwide celebrations in schools and the establishment of clubs and engaged educators dedicated to discussing 

Black History.


First Observance Month

When did BHM become an official event?

President Gerald Ford first formally acknowledged February as Black History Month (BHM) in 1976 and ever since it has traditionally been a month dedicated to telling the story of the Black community and the contributions that changed the world.  Without a doubt, BHM was born out of the need for the entire nation to know the part of their history.  It was necessary for young people everywhere to fully understand all of the figures who fought for the liberation of Black people, for the elimination of slavery, and for the rights to be recognized and have freedoms that exist today. 

Learning about the history of BHM is valuable information with the understanding that it is only a small part of the African American story.  Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865. 

Click here for instructional resources on Juneteenth.

Find Teaching & Instructional Resources 

Are you looking for instructional resources to assist with lesson planning that will help celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of Black people throughout history? Activities and ideas that will also serve as an opportunity to acknowledge and learn about the struggles and injustices of the past and present?