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What is Black History Month and why is it celebrated?

Here's a look at the origins of Black History Month.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Monday, Feb. 1 marks the start of Black History Month in the U.S. 

Black History Month originally started as National Negro History Week back in 1926. It was founded by Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland. It fell on the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The event inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize celebrations, establish history clubs and host performances and educational lectures. 

As the decades went on, mayors of cities across the country issued yearly proclamations recognizing Negro History Week. By the late 1960s, in part due to the Civil Rights Movement, Negro History Week evolved in Black History Month on several college campuses. 

In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford officially expanded Negro History Week into Black History Month, stating the United States needed to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."

Since then, every American president has designate February as Black History Month and endorse a specific theme. This year's theme is "Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity."

Black History Month is celebrated each year as a way to recognize the contributions and achievements of Black Americans, as well as present opportunities for people to learn about the effects of racism and how to challenge negative stereotypes that plague the Black community to this day. 


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