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Black History Month: How did it start, and why February?

Here are some questions often associated with the famed month.

ATLANTA — Black History Month is a time to remember, reflect and celebrate the many contributions people of the Black diaspora have made throughout American history.

Here are some questions often associated with the famed month. 

Who is Carter G. Woodson?

Woodson is a Harvard educated historian who started a group now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). 

Woodson was the son of a former slave and was the second African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. He formed his group 50 years after the abolishment of slavery in the United States. Woodson is credited as the "Father of Black History." He is also a celebrated member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated. 

How did Black History Month originate? 

Woodson's fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated, were the creators behind "Negro History and Literature Week," which was initially celebrated in April.

According to pambazuka.org, "The program was hugely popular on Black college campuses across America." 

Why February? Why the shortest month of the year?

In 1926, the ASALH chose the second week in February as a time to celebrate the contributions of African Americans. The week was picked to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two men who played a prominent role in eliminating slavery.

The selection of February is celebratory and honorary in context - it is not documented as a malicious choice (for it being the shortest month of the year). 

How did it become a month-long celebration?

Mayors across the country issued yearly proclamations, but for many around the country, a week wasn’t enough. In the 1960s, college campuses extended the celebration to a month.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month. In an effort to make it official in 1976, President Ford named February "Black History Month" in a commemorative speech. In the speech, he urged Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."

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