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Why is Black History Month in February?

The celebration is the brainchild of a Harvard educated son of a former slave

ATLANTA — ATLANTA – Black History Month is a time to recognize the contributions of African Americans throughout history, a celebration that takes place each February.

Why February?

It was a Harvard educated historian, Carter G. Woodson, who started a group now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. The son of a former slave, Woodson was the second African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. He formed his group 50 years after the abolishment of slavery in the United States.

Credit: AP
FILE - Carter G. Woodson in an undated photograph. Woodson is a founder of the Association for the Study of African American History, who first came up with the idea of the celebration that became Black History Month. Woodson, the son of recently-freed Virginia slaves who went on to earn a Ph.D in history from Harvard, originally came up with the idea as Negro History Week to encourage black Americans to become more interested in their own history. (AP Photo)

Woodson is credited as the "Father of Black History", but his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated, were the creators behind "Negro History and Literature Week" which came first and was originally celebrated in April.

According to pambazuka.org, "The program was hugely popular on Black college campuses across America." 

In 1926, the ASLAH chose the second week in February as a time to celebrate the contributions of African Americans. The week was picked to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two men who played a prominent role in eliminating slavery.

Mayors across the country issued yearly proclamations, but for many around the country, a week wasn’t enough. In the 1960s, college campuses extended the celebration to a month.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month.

This year, much of the focus is on the 150th anniversary of the 15th amendment to the Constitution which gave African American men the right to vote.



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