Thousands of African Americans traveled from all around the USA to visit exhibitions highlighting their people’s development since slavery was abolished and Carter G. Woodson was not left behind. He traveled from Washington, D.C. to take part in a nationwide commemoration of the 50th anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the State of Illinois. An overflow crowd of six to twelve thousand waited outside for their turn to view the exhibits, despite being held in the Coliseum. This motivated Carter to form an organization to encourage the scientific study of black life and history which led to the formation of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). In time, he encouraged civic organizations supporting blacks to share the accomplishments being discovered by researchers but that wasn’t enough. Carter wanted more and in 1926, he sent out a press release announcing Negro History Week. This was just the beginning…

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were celebrated by black communities during the month of February because of their significant role in shaping black history. Carter admired both men, but he also believed that history was made by the people. He believed that the focus should not only be on Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass but also on the black men and women who made significant contributions to the advancement of human civilization. Carter’s work received an overwhelming response and within no time, the black middle class grew and so did their participation in and consumption of black literature and culture. Teachers wanted tools to instruct their students, and progressive whites stepped out and endorsed the efforts. His work grew and slowly, within the black community, initiatives to extend the study of black history in schools and black history festivals before the public.

Some states began to celebrate the one week – Negro History Week through the month of February as young blacks on college campuses became more aware of their ties to Africa. In 1970, Negro History Week was renamed Black History Month, and to date, we acknowledge it as a month-long celebration.

“We are going back to that beautiful history, and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements.” ~ Carter G. Woodson

Have a read for more details of the origin of BHM, please check out the website, by Daryl Michael Scott.

By: Mercy Wambui

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