Black History Month
Every February, Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, is celebrated in the United States to recognize the contributions of Black Americans to U.S. history. The theme for 2024 is “African Americans and the Arts” with a focus on Black contributions to the arts.
This observance saw its beginnings in 1926 when Black historian Carter G. Woodson declared the second week of February as “Negro History Week” to honor the birthdays of abolitionists Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. However, it wasn’t until 1976 that Black History Month was officially established by President Gerald Ford to “honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Black History Month serves to uncover the deep-rooted history of African American culture, bringing greater awareness to the significance of Black history to American society as a whole. Because African American voices were silenced for so long due to slavery and other forms of violent racism, Black history has historically been left in the dark. Dedicating an entire month to this goal gives historians the unique opportunity to bring information regarding the accomplishments of Black Americans to light, placing them at the forefront of historical discussions.
Oftentimes, Black history is uncovered through the personal accounts of African Americans throughout history, such as journals and letters, as well as through craft, music, dance, artifacts, historic sites, and other archives that hid in plain sight for centuries. In fact, the African American experience was largely disregarded until 20th-century Black historians were finally welcomed into academic circles to take on the critical task of filling in the gaps that mainstream scholars neglected for so long.
The United States isn’t the only country prioritizing the unearthing of Black history. Canada and Germany also celebrate Black History Month in February, whereas other countries, such as Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom host their own Black History Month celebrations in October. These observances allow countries to reframe their history to include the experiences of minority populations of color, giving us a more comprehensive understanding of society, no matter how dark those realities might be.
You can participate in Black History Month by taking time to delve into Black history and focus on Black voices starting with the resources below: