In February, every year since 1976, the nation marks the Black History Month to commemorate and honour the contributions and sacrifices of the Black Americans. The Black History Month is a federally recognized celebration of Black Americans contributions, a sombre moment to reflect on the historical injustice meted out to the race and a time to vow for racial justice.
“If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”
D. Woodson, “father of Black History”
Schools and educational institutes across the country hold seminars, plays, lectures and events to mark the event. Businesses offer Black-themed services and products.
The history scholar Carter G. Woodson, considered to be the “father of Black History,” who became only the second Black American after W.E.B. Du Bois to get a doctorate from Harvard University initiated what he called the “Black History Week” to celebrate the contributions of Black people to civilization. The son of former slaves, Woodson, famously said that, “if a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”
Woodson chose a week in February to hold the Negro History Week because Frederick Douglas, who was born a slave did not know his actual date of birth but chose Feb 14 as his birthdate and because Abraham Lincoln was born on Feb. 12. Woodson considered these individuals to be pivotal to the rise of the Black people. Wilson was of the view that young Black people should be taught to be proud of their history and culture.
In 1976, at the height of the civil rights movement, President Gerald Ford expanded the event to a Black History Month.
Each year the Black History Month is celebrated with a different theme. Themes are chosen by the Association for the Study of African American life and History (ASALH), which was founded by Wilson in 1915 and is the official promoter of the event. The theme for 2023 is “Black Resistance.”
“African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings since our arrival upon these shores. These efforts have been to advocate for a dignified self-determined life in a just democratic society in the United States and beyond the United States political jurisdiction.”