Why Is Black History Month In February, The Shortest Month? by Brittany Wong – ASALH – The Founders of Black History Month (2024)

Why Is Black History Month In February, The Shortest Month? by Brittany Wong – ASALH – The Founders of Black History Month (1)

As written by Brittany Wong

People often question why Black History Month happens in February, the shortest month in the calendar year.

Historians say there’s a simple answer: Black History Month ― which began in 1926 as Negro History Week ― is in February because it coincides with the birthdays of two important figures in the abolitionist movement: President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

February 12 is the birth date of Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, freeing enslaved people in the Confederate states. February 14 is the birth date abolitionist, and orator Frederick Douglass chose for himself after escaping slavery in 1838.

“There was no sinister reason for February’s selection,” said Burnis R. Morris, a professor of journalism and mass communications at Marshall University and a biographer of Carter G. Woodson, the creator of Negro History Week who’d later be called “The Father of Black History Month.”

Morris told HuffPost, “The study of Black History has two periods: before Woodson and after Woodson.”

Woodson, who was born in 1875 in Virginia to formerly enslaved parents, wanted to honor the heritage and achievements of Black Americans in the wake of emancipation.

Sixty years after the end of slavery, those contributions had largely been ignored in history books, or worse, distorted and misrepresented, said LaGarrett King, a professor and director of the Center for K-12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education at the University at Buffalo.

“When Black people’s history was written, the narratives painted Black people as savages who had to be saved by Europeans,” he told HuffPost. “Additionally, slavery was written as a sort of humane act, and it was suggested that Black people were actually happy during enslavement.”

As founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, Woodson was intent on changing that perception and altering the trajectory of Black Americans.

“He wrote five Black history textbooks, conducted home study courses, and developed a teacher’s journal to help teachers teach Black history,” King said.

Woodson was bullheaded on his mission, said Morris, because “he feared Blacks would be candidates for extermination if they and the broader public did not learn about their past.”

Through the books and articles he and his associates published on Black history, Woodson grabbed the attention of the nation and world.

“In his work, he emphasized the education side and also the need to improve race relations,” Morris said. “Negro History Week was widely celebrated by many Black people and the Black press. In segregated America, even white people and the mainstream press in a number of communities joined the annual celebrations.”

The creation of Negro History Week happened at an opportune, much-needed time, said Devin Fergus, a professor of history and Black studies at the University of Missouri and a John Hope Franklin fellow.

“In the broader context of the 1920s, it can be said that Negro History Week was created to push back against things like colonization, eugenics and racialized immigration policies which were affecting all folks of color who are in the U.S.,” he said.

The push for a more outsized celebration rather than just a week picked up steam as a result of the Civil Rights and the Black Power movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Fergus told HuffPost.

Black educators and students at Kent State University in Portage County, Ohio, proposed the first Black History Month in February 1969. In 1976, President Gerald Ford proclaimed it an official national celebration.

“We can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor through our history,” he said at the time.

Since then, every U.S. president has officially designated February Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, have followed suit: Canada celebrates in February as well, while the U.K. observes it in October.

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Why Is Black History Month In February, The Shortest Month? by Brittany Wong – ASALH – The Founders of Black History Month (2024)

FAQs

Why Is Black History Month In February, The Shortest Month? by Brittany Wong – ASALH – The Founders of Black History Month? ›

Historians say there's a simple answer: Black History Month ― which began in 1926 as Negro History Week ― is in February because it coincides with the birthdays of two important figures in the abolitionist movement: President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Why did ASALH chose the second week of February to celebrate the first Black history Week in 1926? ›

Carter G. Woodson first established “Negro History Week” during the second week of February. And why that week? Because it encompasses the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass—both men being great American symbols of freedom.

Why did they choose the month of February for Black History Month? ›

Woodson chose February for reasons of tradition and reform. It is commonly said that Woodson selected February to encompass the birthdays of two great Americans who played a prominent role in shaping black history, namely Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, whose birthdays are the 12th and the 14th, respectively.

Why did Carter G Woodson make Black History Month in February? ›

Woodson's devotion to showcasing the contributions of Black Americans bore fruit in 1926 when he launched Negro History Week in the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Woodson's concept was later expanded into Black History Month.

What is the theme for ASALH Black History Month 2024? ›

In 2024, we examine the varied history and life of African American arts and artisans. For centuries Western intellectuals denied or minimized the contributions of people of African descent to the arts as well as history, even as their artistry in many genres was mimicked and/or stolen.

Why is Black History Month the shortest month? ›

Historians say there's a simple answer: Black History Month ― which began in 1926 as Negro History Week ― is in February because it coincides with the birthdays of two important figures in the abolitionist movement: President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

How Black History Month originated when did it become nationally recognized why did February become Black History Month? ›

In 1976 the association that Woodson had founded (later renamed the Association for the Study of African American Life and History) facilitated the widespread institutionalization of February as Black History Month, and U.S. President Gerald Ford urged Americans to participate in its observance.

What happened on February in Black history? ›

February 1, 1865 U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signs the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery in the United States. February 1 is known as National Freedom Day in its honor. February 3, 1870 The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified.

How long is Black History Month? ›

Black History Month (also known as African American History Month and Celebration of the African Diaspora) began as Negro History Week in February of 1926. Fifty years later, President Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976 as a month-long national observance occurring in February.

What history month is February? ›

Each February, National Black History Month serves as both a celebration and a powerful reminder that Black history is American history, Black culture is American culture, and Black stories are essential to the ongoing story of America — our faults, our struggles, our progress, and our aspirations.

What happened on February 7 in Black History? ›

On February 7, 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week, marking a significant milestone in the recognition of African-American history. Revered as “The Father of Black History,” Woodson designated the second week of February for this observance.

What happened on February 22 in black history? ›

On this day February 22nd in 1989, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince won the first rap Grammy for their single “Parents Just Don't Understand.” “Parents Just Don't Understand” is the second single from DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's second studio album, He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper.

What happened on February 1st in black history? ›

The 13th Amendment, which formally abolished slavery, was officially approved on February 1, 1865. Almost 100 years later, that day became known as National Freedom Day.

What president made Black History Month? ›

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.”

Who is the father of Black history? ›

GAZETTE: Carter G. Woodson is known as the father of Black history.

What is the theme for Black History Month 2025? ›

The theme, “African Americans and Labor,” intends to encourage broad reflections on intersections between Black people's work and their workplaces in all their iterations and key moments, themes, and events in Black history and culture across time and space and throughout the U.S., Africa, and the Diaspora.

Why are the origins of National Negro History Week in February? ›

In 1926, the ASALH sponsored a national Negro History week during the second week in February to coincide with Abraham Lincoln's birthday. For decades, communities, schools and churches across the U.S. used that week to host local celebrations, lectures, etc.

What happened on February 2nd in Black history? ›

On this day in 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified, guaranteeing the right to vote regardless of race and intending to ensure, with the Fourteenth Amendment, the civil rights of former slaves.

Why was Negro History Week celebrated? ›

because there would be no lynching if it did not start in the schoolroom. On Feb. 7, 1926, Carter G. Woodson, initiated the first celebration of Negro History Week which led to Black History Month, to extend and deepen the study and scholarship on African American history, all year long.

When was the first Negro History Week celebrated what month did the week occur and what was the reason behind the selection of this particular month? ›

Woodson initiated the first Negro History Week in February 1926. Dr. Woodson selected the week in February that included the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two key figures in the history of Black Americans.

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