- Name: Black History Month, African-American History Month
- Previous Name: Negro History Week
- Observing Countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany
- Time: February (United States, Canada), October (United Kingdom)
- Frequency: Annual
- Start Year: 1926
- Year of Federal Recognition: 1976
- Initiator: Carter G. Woodson
- Federally Recognised by: President Gerald Ford
- Cause: Celebration of African history and people
- Initiation: Black History Month is almost 90 years old
- Official Recognition: President Gerald Ford officially recognised the month-long celebration in 1976
- Population: There are 45 million black people in the United States
- Observation: Black History Month is also celebrated outside of the US
- Theme: The celebrations focus on a different theme every year
- Time: February is an important month in Black History
- Influence: Black History Month inspired the celebration of June 10
- Cause: Black History Month was intended to bridge gaps in education
- Celebration: The scope of celebration goes beyond the black men and women of America
- Publication: Carter G. Woodson founded the journal of Negro history
- Negro History week was quickly commercialised
- Woodson hoped to end the celebration of Negro History week
- Teachers and students were previously given “Black History Month in a box”
- Morgan Freeman does not support the idea of Black History Month
- Black people voted a higher rate than whites in the 2012 Presidential Election
- Black History Month was initiated by a College Fraternity
- Thank black inventors for mashed potatoes, cooling units and disposable syringes
- The father of Black History was the second black person to earn a Harvard degree
- The first female self-made millionaire was a black woman
- The idea of Vaccination was introduced to America by a slave
Black History Month Is Almost 90 Years Old
Among little-known Black History Month facts is the real age of this celebration. Black History Month dates back to 1926, at which time it was known as Negro History Week. At this time, the celebration lasted only a week, and began on February 12.
The reception from the general public at first wasn’t as good as the initiators had hoped. However, Negro History Week gained popularity eventually. In the 1930s, the celebration was observed in almost every state which had a large African-American population.
President Gerald Ford Officially Recognised the Month-Long Celebration in 1976
There are many Black History Month facts about its growing popularity over the years. By 1969, the celebration of Negro History Week had become widely popular across the US. This was due in part to the growth of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Starting in early 1969, the leaders of the Black United Students at Kent State University in Ohio suggested that the celebration should be extended from just one week to the whole month of February. In 1976, Black History Month was officially recognised by the federal government, led by President Gerald Ford.
There Are 45 Million Black People in the United States
If there is one thing Black History Month facts teach us, it is the important role that the African-American community play in American society. Population wise, there are currently 45 million black people in the country.
By 2060, it is estimated that the black community in the US will have grown to 74.5 million people, making up 17.9 percent of the national population. It is an undeniable fact that black men and women have had, and will continue to have, a large influence on the national demography and culture of the US.
Black History Month Is Also Celebrated Outside of the US
The United States is not the only country to celebrate Black History Month. Canada also began to observe Black History Month in 1995. The celebration was officially recognised by a 2008 bill, which received unanimous approval.
In Canada, Black History Month is observed in the month of February, the same as in the US. Another country that also celebrates Black History Month is the United Kingdom. In the UK, this month-long celebration takes place in the month of October.
The Celebrations Focus on a Different Theme Every Year
Black History Month facts show that the celebration has a different theme every year. The themes were originally set by Carter G. Woodson to help focus the attention of the public.
The themes are not intended to restrict the celebration of black history, but to bring an important issue into the spotlight. Over the years, the themes have reflected the changes in African-Americans’ status and self-perception in society.
The theme for 2015’s Black History Month was “A Century of Black Life, History and Culture”.
February is an Important Month in Black History
Originally, Negro History Week took place in April. Later on, when Carter G. Woodson was put in charge of leading the celebrations at his university, he decided to move the event to February.
He did this in order to honour the birthdays of two men who are very important in black American history: Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln.
The month of February also holds another significant date in African-American history; on February 3, 1870, the 15th Amendment was passed to grant voting rights to black men.
Black History Month Inspired the Celebration of Juneteenth
Before it became a month-long celebration, Negro History Week had already inspired other celebrations of black history, including the Juneteenth holiday.
This holiday, celebrated on June 19 every year, was made official in the state of Texas in 1980. It celebrates the abolition of slavery in Texas in June 1865 and commemorates the freedom of the African-American community.
Nowadays, the holiday also promotes self-development and recognition for all cultures. Some organisations are campaigning for Juneteenth to become a national holiday.
Black History Month was Intended to Bridge Gaps in Education
Carter G. Woodson realised that while elite scholars like Du Bois were making huge progress in the study of black history at university level, the changes did not reach students and teachers in segregated schools.
Woodson’s professor, Edward Channing, even challenged Woodson to prove that black history was worth studying. Black History Month facts show that Woodson had to overcome many obstacles to promote the teaching and studying of black history in schools.
Not only did he have to promote scholarly research, he also had to bring such knowledge into the schools to reach out to younger generations. Black History Month, therefore, was about bridging the gap between high profile scholars and the poorest of segregated schools.
The Scope of Celebration Goes Beyond the Black Men and Women of America
Instead of focusing on just a few well-known black men and women in the US, Woodson wanted the community to recognise all the other black men and women around the world.
He believed that there were many faceless and nameless people who deserved credit for their contribution to human society.
For this reason, when discussing Black History Month facts, we now study not only the accomplishments of politicians, historians, and scholars, but also the work of investors, craftsmen, artists and people who practice countless other professions.
Carter G. Woodson Founded the Journal of Negro History
Aside from his efforts in promoting the celebration of Negro History Week, Carter G. Woodson was also very active in other fields related to the study of black history.
In 1915, Woodson and Rev. Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, or ASNLH for short. The goal of this organisation was to conduct research into the role of black people throughout history, and to bring such contributions into the spotlight.
The next year, the Journal of Negro History was created. This publication was dedicated to dispelling popular mistruths, and to educating black people about their pride-worthy background.
Negro History Week Was Quickly Commercialised
There are many Black History Month facts about how Negro History Week became popular throughout the country. As the celebration became more and more popular, it also became more commercialised.
Previously, many publishers had ignored black topics. Once Negro History Week became popular, however, they rushed to publish related books so that they could be distributed to bookstores and schools. Intellectuals and scholars also took advantage of the opportunity to give speeches in exchange for money.
Most of these people had only one goal – that of capitalising on public interest. However, in a way, they also helped further promote interest in black history education.
Woodson Hoped to End the Celebration of Negro History Week
Carter G. Woodson passed away in 1950, before Negro History Week became Black History Month. Although he would have been glad to see the celebration gaining national recognition, it was not Woodson’s wish to continue the tradition.
Before he passed away, Woodson expressed his wish to push the study of black history far beyond the week-long celebration. His ultimate goal was to have black history incorporated into the school curriculum, so that black people could study their heritage all year long. This would have ended the need for the dedicated annual celebration.
Teachers and Students Were Previously Given “Black History Month in a Box”
Black History Month facts show that teaching materials were not always as easily accessible as they are now. One of the obstacles to the nationalisation of the celebration was the lack of access to information and teaching materials in low-budget schools and classrooms.
In 1948, a “Negro History Kit” was created to solve this problem. The 32-page pamphlet cost only $2 and provided everything a teacher might need to teach black history in the classroom.
In this kit, you could find poems, orations, a list of plays, a five-day teaching program, photos, and bibliographical information. This kit was called “Black History Month in a Box” by some people.
Morgan Freeman Does Not Support the Idea of Black History Month
Black History Month facts show that the celebration has not won over everyone’s approval. Among the critics is Morgan Freeman, a movie icon and an influential spokesperson in the United States.
Commenting on Black History Month, Freeman echoed the sentiments of Carter G. Woodson and said that black history should be studied and celebrated beyond the month-long limitation. He said:
Freeman also pointed out that there is no white history month, because white history is studied all year round.
Black People Voted at a Higher Rate than Whites in the 2012 Presidential Election
There are many Black History Month facts about the rights and freedoms of black people. In 1870, African-American men were first granted the right to vote after the Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment.
The 2012 presidential election marked the first time that the black community voted at a higher rate than white voters. Some 66% of eligible black people cast their votes, while only 64.1% of white voters did the same.
The highest ever turnout in the black community, combined with the growing number of Hispanic and Asian voters, may go some way towards explaining Obama’s success in this election.
Black History Month Was Initiated by a College Fraternity
Given the serious nature of the majority of Black History Month facts, it may come as a surprise to learn that the celebration was originally started by a college fraternity.
While attending Harvard, Carter G. Woodson was a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. Being passionate about black history education, Woodson suggested in a fraternity meeting that they should give more attention to African-American life and history.
The idea was accepted, and, in 1921, the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity first initiated a program named Negro History and Literature Week. This is perhaps one of the biggest traditions ever started by a college fraternity.
Thank Black Inventors for Mashed Potatoes, Cooling Units and Disposable Syringes
There are many Black History Month facts relating to the numerous achievements and contributions of the black community throughout the history of human civilisation. Among them are many innovative inventions by black inventors.
One of the most popular American dishes – mashed potatoes – was invented by Dr. William C. Davis. We have Frederick McKinley Jones to thank for our fresh groceries, as he invented the air-cooling units used in transport trucks. Phil Brooks, another African-American inventor, received the first US patent for the disposable syringe.
There are many other important inventions from the innovative black men and women who helped shape our lives as we know them today.
The Father of Black History Was the Second Black Person to Earn a Harvard Degree
Carter G. Woodson was the son of former slaves, James and Eliza Riddle Woodson. He attended high school in West Virginia and then earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Chicago in 1908.
Carter Woodson became only the second African-American ever to earn a doctorate degree from the prestigious Harvard University in 1912. The first African-American to earn a doctorate degree from Harvard was W.E.B Dubois, another famous scholar.
With his academic background, Carter G. Woodson understood more than anyone the value of education.
The First Female Self-Made Millionaire Was a Black Woman
There are many examples of successful black women in the modern day, including Oprah, Tyra Banks, and countless others. But did you know that the first female self-made millionaire was a black woman?
Madam C. J. Walker, born with the name of Sarah Breedlove, was the wealthiest African-American woman at the time of her death. Madam Walker built her wealth by developing a line of beauty and hair care products for black women.
Aside from being an entrepreneur, she was also known as a philanthropist and made great contributions to the cause of education of black women to help them become financially independent and successful.
The Idea of Vaccination Was Introduced to America by a Slave
Onesimus was an African-born slave who was gifted to a church minister named Cotton Mather in 1706. He told Mather about the tradition of inoculation practiced in Africa, which was a very early form of vaccination.
In this practice, germs from a person infected with smallpox were scratched into an uninfected person to introduce a small amount of the virus to the well person’s body. The healthy individual, therefore, would not become sick, but would become immune to the disease.
During the smallpox epidemic of 1721, Onesimus and Mather helped inoculate over 240 people and potentially saved their lives. This practice was used later to inoculate American soldiers during the Revolutionary War.
Black History Month Facts – Facts about Black History Month Summary
Black History Month facts show that it took a long time for this tradition to gain recognition and popularity. The now month-long celebration was originally started by Carter G. Woodson with his college fraternity.
Being only the second African-American to earn a Harvard degree, Woodson valued education and wanted to promote the study of black history. Although opposed by some critics, including Morgan Freeman, the celebration gained federal recognition in 1976 and is now widely celebrated across the US.
Black History Month is a time to commemorate and recognise the role and contribution of the black community to our society today.