February 1st marks the beginning of Black History Month – a time to celebrate the challenges and achievements of African Americans. Many of us have become accustomed to passively celebrating this annually, but have you ever stopped to wonder how the very first Black History celebration came to be?
As a Harvard-trained historian, Carter G. Woodson 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.
By the time of Woodson’s death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life and substantial progress had been made in bringing more Americans to appreciate the celebration. Mayors of cities nationwide began issuing proclamations noting Negro History Week. The Black Awakening of the 1960s dramatically expanded the consciousness of African Americans about the importance of black history, and the Civil Rights movement focused Americans of all color on the subject of the contributions of African Americans to our history and culture.
The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” That year, fifty years after the first celebration, the association held the first African American History Month. By this time, the entire nation had come to recognize the importance of black history in the drama of the American story. Since then, each American president has issued African American History Month proclamations. And the association – now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) – continues to promote the study of Black history all year.
Throughout the month, Valorous TV will be sharing some of our favorite, inspirational stories from the African American men and women who have made positive impacts in our society. No matter what branch of the military, these individuals are role models for future generations.