Observing Black History Month

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Whitney Alston and Staff Sgt. Stanley Nelson
  • Black History Month Observance Committee
Black History Month provides the opportunity for all to reflect on the roles that African-Americans have played in the shaping of U.S. history.

One notable African-Americans who helped shape this was Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an African-American historian, author, journalist who was called the 'father of black history.'

"We should not emphasize African-American history but the African-Americans in history. We should not have a history of selected races or nations instead we should have a history of the world void of national bias, race, hate, and religious prejudice." This statement was paraphrased by the late Dr. Woodson.

Dr. Woodson was the son of former slaves and spent his childhood working in coalmines and quarries. He received his childhood education through self-instruction, during the four month term that was customary for black schools at the time.

Woodson mastered the fundamentals of common school subjects by age 17. When he turned 19, he entered high school where he received his diploma in less than two years.

He progressed to earn a bachelor's of literature from Berea College, Ky. Later on, he received his master's degree in history from the University of Chicago.

He became a member of the first black fraternity while becoming the second African-American to earn a doctorate. After earning his doctoral degree, he later joined the faculty at Howard University as a professor and served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

Convinced that the role of his own people in American history and in the history of other cultures was either being ignored or misrepresented, Woodson realized the need for research into the neglected past of African Americans.

He then established the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH) while also founding the group publication the Journal of Negro History.

In 1926, Woodson pioneered the celebration of "Negro History Week" for the second week in February to coincide with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on Feb. 12 by President Abraham Lincoln and the birthday of one of the foremost black abolitionists and civil rights leaders, Frederick Douglass on Feb. 14.

In 1976, the week-long observance was extended to the entire month of February in order to have enough time for celebratory programs and activities. It is celebrated annually in the U.S. and Canada in February and the United Kingdom in the month of October.

During Black History Month, African American history is taught to thousands of students at local elementary, high school and university levels respectively. African American history is an important part of American history and it is almost impossible to find an American History textbook that does not include passages about black history.