Why Is Black History Month Celebrated in February?

By Amanda Stevens

Black History Month comes around every February, but why then? Here is a brief overview to answer precisely that, as well as how and when the tradition began and what the future may hold.

Carter G. Woodson

Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) was the son of freed slaves and an exceptional student who became only the second African-American to earn a doctorate degree at Harvard University. Due to his pioneering efforts to incorporate African-American history into public school curriculums, he is often referred to as the Father of Black History.

Association for the Study of African-American Life and History

In 1915, Woodson co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and the following year founded the Journal of Negro History. Woodson and his organization were instrumental in promoting awareness of the many contributions African-Americans have made throughout time.

Negro History Week

A week-long celebration of African-American heritage and history began the week that marked the birthdays of two key figures in African-American history: former president and signer of the Emancipation Proclamation Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and abolitionist Frederick Douglass (February 14).

Expansion to a Month

In 1976, 50 years after the introduction of Negro History Week and the bicentennial of America's independence, the week-long celebration grew to include the entire month of February.

Controversy and Continued Recognition

Some historians and African-American history advocates in particular have argued that it is no longer necessary to designate a month for black history. Rather, they claim that since African-American history is so intricately intertwined with American history in general, trying to distinguish the two only marginalizes the importance of the black experience in America. Others, meanwhile, claim that until African-American history is solidly integrated into regular history lessons, abandoning Black History Month would be tantamount to disregarding the only popular forum historians have to raise awareness about issues in African-American history.

About the Author

Amanda Stevens is a history graduate student attending Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. She has always had a passion for writing, and over the years has won multiple writing awards and recognition for her work. After completing her Master's in history (tentatively scheduled for Spring 2010), she hopes to pursue her Doctorate in the same field.