I noticed this last night on FamilySearch – Black History Month Is for Everyone: https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/why-we-celebrate-black-history-month/.
A lot more in the link, but trying to stay in the 550 – 600 words/posts.
February provides an opportunity to celebrate Black History Month and reflect on the life-changing contributions that those of African descent have made to the world. Interestingly, the history of Black History Month itself provides a window into why it is so important to know, remember, and celebrate black history.
Who Started Black History Month?
Black History Month came onto the American scene in the meek clothing of “Negro History Week,” which was held during the second week of February (7–14) in 1926. It was designed by Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875–1950), a native of Virginia and the son of formerly enslaved parents. Having once worked as a coal miner, Woodson went on to earn two degrees from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University. He also founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History).
The date for Negro History Week was chosen to encompass the birthdays of two men—United States president Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Both had long been honored in the African American community as pivotal to black freedom.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford became the first United States president to officially recognize Black History Month, with a proclamation he issued during America’s bicentennial. Subsequent presidents, Republican and Democrat alike, have all issued Black History Month proclamations.
Where Is Black History Month Celebrated?
Activists for racial equality in the United States, the Caribbean, and Africa helped spread a new racial pride called “black consciousness” around the world. This movement inspired the creation of Black History Month celebrations in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, and the Netherlands, as well as countries in Africa and throughout the Caribbean.
Why Is It Important to Study Black History?
Black history is important because black history is American history. It is not a separate subject. We highlight black history to continue to understand how black narratives are tightly woven and integrated into the narrative of the United States as a whole. The same is true worldwide.
Why Do We Celebrate Black History Month?
Black History Month highlights the lasting contributions of black men and women in society. Woodson felt that this remembering was important and that such an education would motivate others to rise to their potential. Now, we dedicate an entire month to recognize the meaningful impact that individuals of African descent have made to enrich American culture, expand democracy, strengthen families, and make a better society for all.
Black History and Genealogy
Today, the future of Black History Month is limitless thanks to new tech tools and digital communication. The arrival of DNA testing and internet-based genealogy websites has revolutionized Woodson’s work in ways he never imagined. Family historians dive into archives, online newspapers, and census reports to stretch the traditional boundaries of history. They discover amazing life stories of their ancestors—ordinary people who did extraordinary things. These stories inspire new generations and destroy old stereotypes.
For more information on how you and your family can make the most of this month, head to FamilySearch’s African American Genealogy hub.
Paula Whatley Matabane, Ph.D., is director of publications for the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. The Atlanta, Georgia, native has been her family historian for over 30 years. She is professor emerita of Howard University and an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.