HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Annually, we celebrate Black History Month to commemorate and acknowledge the critical role African Americans have played in shaping American culture and ideals.
As America continues to confront its past, we must continue to affirm, celebrate, and honor African Americans' resiliency. Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard University-trained historian, believed that truth could not be denied and that reason would prevail over prejudice.
His hopes to raise awareness of African Americans’ contributions to civilization was realized when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated February 1926 during a week that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
By the time of Woodson’s death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life, and substantial progress had been made in bringing more Americans to appreciate the celebration. In mid-century, mayors of cities nationwide issued proclamations noting Negro History Week.
The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
That year, 50 years after the first celebration, the association held the first Black History Month. By this time, the entire nation had recognized the importance of Black history in the American story. Since then, each American president has issued African American History Month proclamations. And the Woodson’s association—now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)—continues to promote the study of Black history all year.
We commemorate the work of African American leaders, athletes, poets, and artists who have broken down barriers for generations to come. Black History Month is also a time to reflect on racial disparities African Americans face and the need for conversations to assist in the reconciliation of racial, economic, and judicial inequalities in America.
Throughout Black History Month, we acknowledge figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Wiley Evers, who were trailblazers in advocating for racial equality in America; poets such as Nikki Giovanni and Amanda Gorman, who utilize words to eloquently reflect on this history, resilience, and beauty of Black culture; and athletes such as Tommie Smith and Chris Paul who use their platform to promote social justice.