By: Kendall Zuniga
Black History Month is celebrated every February to recognize achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, additionally devoting a month to celebrating Black history.
In the year 1915, almost half century after the 13th amedment had abolished slavery in the United State, historian Carter G. Woodsen and Minster Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association For The Study Of African American Life and History. This association was dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by black Americans and other people of African descent.
President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to, “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
But why was February chosen as the designated month for black history? February was chosen primarily because the second week of the month coincides with the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Lincoln was influential in the emancipation of slaves, and Douglass, a former slave, was a prominent leader in the abolitionist movement, which fought to end slavery.
Forty years after President Ford formally recognized Black History Month, it was Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, who delivered a message of his own from the White House, “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, 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.”
Each year during Black History Month a theme is selected, this year’s theme, Black Health and Wellness, pays homage to medical scholars and health care providers. The theme is especially timely as we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected all communities and placed unique burdens on Black health care professionals.
To support the cause, go to www.asalh.org to learn more about history and join the cause.