Why is February Black History Month?


via St. Joseph County Public Library

Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most well-known Black leaders in history and has fearlessly fought to end racial segregation and prejudice.

Why is February designated as the month to commemorate African American history? The U.S. honors the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shape the nation every February. Rich cultural heritage, triumphs, and advertisements are an incredible part of the country’s history and are what Black History Month celebrates. Black health and wellness is this year’s theme for Black History Month. Black health and wellness pay homage to medical scholars and health care providers. Executive Director of the Anti-racist Research and Policy center, Sara Clarke Kaplan, said, ”There is no American History without African American History.”


 Before Black History Month, there was a week called Negro History Week. Black History should be celebrated and taught all year long, not only during one month a year, is what critics were arguing about. Carter G. Woodson, also known as the “father of Black History,” first set out in 1926 to designate a time to promote and educate people about Black History and their culture. Woodson envisioned a weeklong celebration to encourage the teaching of Black History in public schools. The second week of February was designated as Negro History Week. He was inspired by attending a three-week national celebration in 1915 of the 50th anniversary of emancipation. He and four others founded the Association for the study of Negro Life and History. They did this to encourage young scholars to engage in the intensive study of the African-American peoples’ past. In the late 1960s, the idea grew into recognition, and Negro History had evolved into what is Black History Month. The U.S. changed because of racial injustice, inequality, and anti-imperialism protests. 


February was chosen as Black History Month because the second week of the month coincides with the birthdays of two important figures in African-American History: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Lincoln is one of the reasons February is the set month because he was influential in the emancipation of enslaved people. As for Douglass, he was a former slave and was a prominent leader in the abolitionist movement, which fought to end slavery. Both their birthdays are in the second week of February, which was a time that African Americans traditionally celebrated emancipation. Barack Obama, the first Black president forty years after Black History Month was formally recognized, delivered a message from the White House built by enslaved people. “Black History Month shouldn’t be treated as though it is somehow separate from our collective American history or somehow just boiled down to a compilation of greatest hits from the March on Washington or from some of our sports heroes,” Obama said. Continuing, “It’s about the lived, shared experience of all African Americans, high and low, famous and obscure, and how those experiences have shaped and challenged and ultimately strengthened America .” This is why Black History Month is celebrated in February.