February is National African American History Month, or Black History Month, a time to celebrate the achievements of black Americans and recognize the important role African Americans have played in U.S. History.
Historian Carter G. Woodson is credited as the father of “Negro History Week,” which first started in 1926. Woodson and prominent African-American minister Jesse E. Moorland were founders of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), an organization dedicated to the research and promotion of achievements by people of African descent. Through sponsorship by the ASNLH, national Negro History Week was first established. Woodson and Moorland chose the celebration to coincide with the February birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
Black History Month and the Civil Rights Movement
Thanks to the Civil Rights Movement and the popularity of Negro History Week on college campuses, interest in the event continued to grow. Some 50 years later, in 1976, Gerald Ford was the first president to officially recognize Black History Month. Every president since has continued to designate February as a national celebration of African-American history.
As founders of Black History Month, the ASALH continues to select a theme for each year’s celebration. The theme for 2017 is “The Crisis in Black Education” and focuses on the crucial role of education in the history of African Americans. The denial of access to education for African-Americans began in the days of slavery when it was against the law for slaves to read or write, but in many ways a similar denial continues to exist. Through a lack of resources, overcrowding, and policies handed down from the education system, students attending public school in urban locations keep higher education out of reach to blacks.
Addressing the crisis in black education is one way ASALH hopes to improve the level of education — and the future — for African Americans of all ages.