The Origins Of Black History Month

As we make our way throughout February, our coverage of Black History Month continues strong, but we're halfway through the month and it's an important milestone to recognize when it comes to its origin, particularly thanks to the birthdays of two men: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Black History Month was initially conceptualized as Negro History Week in 1926 and chosen to be celebrated in February to coincide with the births of the American figures, who were widely celebrated among the black community for their strides in the community. While Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, Douglass was born sometime in February 1818. As with many slaves, Douglass' exact year and birthdate are unknown, but he decided to celebrate his big day on February 14. According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, "[University of Chicago alumni Carter G.] Woodson built Negro History Week around traditional days of commemorating the black past. He was asking the public to extend their study of black history, not to create a new tradition. In doing so, he increased his chances for success," the website read.

Negro History Week was the result of the Association, which was founded by Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland, to bring awareness to the societal contributions of African Americans. Flash forward to the 1960s and the weekly February celebration was extended to the full month when colleges and university started to develope their African American studies. It was finally made a national holiday in 1976 when President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month.

Photo: Getty Images

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