February is Black History Month. This annual tradition celebrates the history and achievements of African Americans. It began in 1926 when Dr. Carter Woodson, noted educator and scholar, established Negro History Week. He wrote, “If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” In addition to educating the general public, Woodson believed that “Just as a thorough education in the belief in inequality of races has brought the world to the cat-and-dog stage of religious and racial strife, so may thorough instruction in the equality of races bring about a reign of brotherhood through an appreciation of the virtues of all races, creed and colors.” Woodson chose the month of February for the celebration because it marks the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery, and Frederick Douglass, the noted African American abolitionist. In 1976, Black History Week became Black History Month. This year’s theme commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Check out the featured resources listed in the library’s African American Studies subject guide for background information about Black History Month, the Emancipation Proclamation, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the March on Washington.
Aguiar, Marian. “Black History Month.” Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, Second Edition. Ed. Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr.. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. Oxford African American Studies Center.
“Black History Month.” Encyclopedia of African American Society. Ed. Gerald D. Jaynes. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2005. 118-19. SAGE knowledge. Web.
Pencak, William. “Negro History Week/Month.” In Encyclopedia of African American History 1896 to the Present, Oxford University Press. (, n.d.).
- By Lori Ricigliano, African American Studies Liaison Librarian