This month, the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Museum will all be celebrating Black History month. Initially a week-long celebration, the observance was founded by Cater G. Woodson in 1926.
“As a Harvard-trained historian, Carter G. Woodson, like W. E. B. Du Bois before him, believed that truth could not be denied and that reason would prevail over prejudice. His hopes to raise awareness of African American’s contributions to civilization was realized when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The response was overwhelming: Black history clubs sprang up; teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils; and progressive whites, not simply white scholars and philanthropists, stepped forward to endorse the effort.”
In 1976 during the US bicentennial, President Ford expanded the celebration to last for a month. “Since then, each American President has issued African American History Month proclamations.” You can view the documents related to these proclamations here.
This year, America’s cultural heritage institutions are beginning Black History Month with a screening of the film I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary by Raoul Peck that examines James Baldwin’s reactions to the assassinations of many civil rights leaders. Sponsored by the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, you can watch the streaming webcast of the documentary tonight. Visit their site for more information.
For information on additional events, visit the African American History Month website here.
Quotations from an essay by Daryl Michael Scott, Howard University, for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, found here.