A Quick History of Black History Month

Camille Osumah

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Happy Black History month! A month in which I celebrate the rich history of Black Americans, their contributions to the world, and the strides that have been made to better our futures. First referred to as “Negro History Week,” after being created by Carter G. Woodson, a noted African American historian, scholar, educator, and publisher, celebration would not be extended to a full month until 1976. Though it’s common to joke how the designated month of awareness, February, is the shortest of the year. February was consciously chosen as it holds the birthdays of Frederick Douglass as well as President Lincoln. Another nod to the month of February comes the anniversary of the NAACP, which was founded on February 12th, 1909.

A annual celebration of Black Americans and heightened recognition of our history, I remember February fondly in school. Black history month was period I got to learn positive things about Black Americans amongst my peers in school. I got to see them learn all the great things Black people have done, a far cry from the typical lesson of slavery in America. It was one of the few times I didn’t mind having every stare at me and be the only black kid in the class.

To me, true Black history in America begins with the change of citizenship. When my people went from property to “citizens”, the world changed. Now, I am not saying that many black people did spectacular things before that time. Or that racism, segregation, and oppression didn’t happen afterwards. But in the eyes of Black people, progress was made, change was possible and they continued to march on.

Black history month was officially recognized by the American government in 1976 with President Gerald Ford. In his recognition of the national month, Ford called upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” And that I will do.

 

Celebrate diversity, celebrate change and progress, celebrate Black Americans.

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