February is Black History Month and perhaps many people are not aware of how this started and why it’s in February.
It all began in 1875 when Carter Godwin Woodson was born in Virginia to former slaves, the year before Reconstruction abruptly ended. The horrors of Jim Crow had not yet begun and black men could travel rather freely. So Woodson went to West Virginia to start high school at the age of 20. He received his diploma in two years, followed by his Bachelor’s at Kentucky’s Berea College, then his Master's from the University of Chicago.
Woodson taught high school in Washington D.C. before being accepted to Harvard, earning a Ph.D. in 1912, becoming only the second black man to do so, the first being W.E.B. Du Bois. Woodson was determined to remedy the lack of awareness of the role of black people in this country and the indifference of much of the academic world to remedy this.
Woodson, along with other black educators, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History on September 9, 1915, in Chicago. He firmly believed that education was the best way to reduce racism, and promoted the organized study of African-American history.
In 1926, in Washington, D.C., Woodson pioneered the first celebration of "Negro History Week" during the second week of February, to coincide with Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’s birthdays. It remained an affair mostly for black people and institutions until 1970, when Kent State University expanded this idea to include the entire month of February.
President Gerald Ford decreed Black History Month a national observance in 1976, stating, “In celebrating Black History Month, we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
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