|FIrst Slaves in 1619|
Black History Month is observed annually in the United States and
Canada in February and in the United Kingdom in October. It serves as a
remembrance of important people and events in the history of the
Although the first African slaves arrived in the United States in
Virginia in 1619, it took over 350 years before the U.S. government
officially acknowledged the absence of Black History from official
American History and the need for a special emphasis to be placed on
Historian Carter G Woodson established the first beginnings of Black
History Month in 1926. In collaboration with the Association for the
study of Negro life and History, they announced "Negro History
Week" as the second week of February annually.
Expecting Black History would become fundamental to American
history (soon), Woodson did not foresee nor intend his designated holiday to be
Yet, Negro History Week was surprisingly popular
and led to the creation of black history clubs and a heightened
interest in Black History in the United States especially among
Image: Carter G. Woodson (public domain)
Official Black History Month Designation
The movement to increase the length of time allocated to Black History
from one week to one month was marked at Kent State in February 1970.
Six years later during the bicentennial, the U.S. government under
Pres. Gerald Ford, recognized the expansion of Negro History Week to
Black History Month.
Black History Month was first celebrated in the United Kingdom in 1987 and in Canada in 1995.
The Continuing Relevance of Black History Month
Debate continues on the need and appropriateness for one month dedicated to the history of one race.
- Shouldn't the United States be
acknowledging the contributions of Black people every day?
the contributions of all minority races and peoples be recognized
Black History Month serves an essential role in the formation of a more equitable society. While focused on a single
race and more predominantly on the Black people from Africa, it still
serves as an important model and a reminder, lest we forget.
Without a mechanism for recognizing contributions
outside the normal power structures, what guarantee exists that
everyone else won't be forgotten?
President Gerald R. Ford's Message on the Observance of Black History Month
February 10, 1976
In the Bicentennial year of our Independence, we can review with
admiration the impressive contributions of black Americans to our
national life and culture.
One hundred years ago, to help highlight these achievements, Dr. Carter
G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life
and History. We are grateful to him today for his initiative, and we
are richer for the work of his organization.
Freedom and the recognition of individual rights are what our
Revolution was all about. They were ideals that inspired our fight for
Independence: ideals that we have been striving to live up to ever
since. Yet it took many years before ideals became a reality for black
The last quarter-century has finally witnessed significant strides in
the full integration of black people into every area of national life.
In celebrating Black History Month, we can take satisfaction from this
recent progress in the realization of the ideals envisioned by our
Founding Fathers. But, even more than this, we can seize the
opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black
Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.
I urge my fellow citizens to join me in tribute to Black History Month
and the message of courage and perseverance it brings to all of us.
GERALD R. FORD
For more information on Black History Month: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_History_Month