African American Heritage Month – February 2023

African American Heritage Month is observed for the month of February every year. People celebrate African American Heritage Month and throughout the year to reflect on more than 400 years of American African history and heritage that have shaped the American culture as we know it today. Celebrations are held across national parks, schools and universities, and communities around the country. People celebrate the month by finding special places, historic moments, and personal journeys that have contributed to conversations and moments of African American representation, identity, and diversity in America’s history. Today, the American identity is closely related to that of African Americans.

History of African American Heritage Month

Since the 1970s there have been celebrations of African American Heritage Month when people celebrate the history and achievements of the community. Celebrations range from specialized TV shows to pronouncements of American presidents. But have you ever wondered why February was chosen as the African American Heritage Month?

The answer lies in the well-known American historian, Carter G Woodson, pioneering the field of African American studies in the early 20th century. He was inspired by the three-week national celebration of the 50th anniversary of African American emancipation in 1915. Woodson was joined by four others in founding the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (A.S.N.L.H.) that encouraged scholars to study the Black past, which until then had been ignored by the American academia. Woodson’s efforts came to triumph in 1924 when his college introduced Negro History and Literature Week. Only two years later, Woodson and the A.S.N.L.H. started Negro History Week in February 1926.

February is also the birth month of two figures who have made a significant impression on African American history: American President Abraham Lincoln (born February 12), and activist Frederick Douglass (born February 14), who both contributed to the emancipation. Since the deaths of Lincoln and Douglass, the African American community had celebrated their contributions to African American liberation and civil rights on their birthdays. By observing Negro History Week in February, Woodson also honored the legacy of Lincoln and Douglass and sought to extend the celebrations of the achievements of African Americans through the entire month.

African American Heritage Month timeline

1613
Africans Arrive in America

They are brought over to use as slaves on cotton plantations.

1777
Vermont Abolishes Slavery

It is the first U.S. state to do so.

1849
Harriet Tubman Escapes Slavery

She escapes slavery and becomes a leading abolitionist, returning South at least 20 times and leading over 300 slaves to freedom.

1993
Toni Morrison Becomes a Nobel Laureate

She is the first black American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

African American Heritage Month FAQs

What is Black History Month and why is it celebrated?

It began as a way for remembering significant people and events in the history of the African diaspora. It is celebrated in February in the U.S. and Canada. In Ireland, the Netherlands, and the U.K. it is marked in October.

What are heritage months and why are they significant?

Heritage Months are periods within the year that are designated to celebrate and acknowledge various ethnic and marginalized groups. These are times to celebrate and to educate people on contributions to American History.

Who was the first African American general in the U.S. Army?

Benjamin O. Davis Sr. was a US Army officer and he became the first-ever African American to rise to the rank of brigadier general in 1940.

African American Heritage Month Activities

  1. Learn the history

    Dedicate some time each day to learn about the history and heritage of African Americans during African American Heritage Month. You will be surprised to see how much you don’t know.

  2. Shop from African American businesses

    Become patrons to African American businesses. This is also a great way to support local businesses and uplift a community.

  3. Indulge in African American arts

    Try to read, watch, and listen to as many artists as you can from the African American community. You’ll be introduced to a range of genres and artistic styles.

5 Facts About African American History That Will Blow Your Mind

  1. Nobel Prize

    Ralph Bunche was the first person of color and the first African-American to receive a Nobel Peace Prize

  2. Harriet Tubman was exceptional in many ways

    Tubman was the first woman to lead an American military operation.

  3. Phillis Wheatley was a child prodigy

    She was only 12 when she became the first female African American author published.

  4. Percy Julian

    He was pivotal in the invention of cortisone, steroids, and birth control pills.

  5. Alice Ball

    She was the first person to develop a successful treatment for leprosy.

Why We Love African American Heritage Month

  1. It’s a part of American history

    African American heritage constitutes a big part of American history. It has shaped the American identity in uncountable ways — be it politics, history, art, or food.

  2. It builds an inclusive future

    It’s important to look at the past to build a strong future. African American Heritage Month teaches us essential lessons in racial struggle and what we can do to build an equal future in all areas such as education and politics.

  3. It introduces us to new things

    Since this is also the month to try new forms of food, arts, and more, African American Heritage Month also introduces us to new experiences. Be bold and experience the food, art, and music of the African-American people for yourself.

African American Heritage Month dates

YearDateDay
2022February 1Tuesday
2023February 1Wednesday
2024February 1Thursday
2025February 1Saturday
2026February 1Sunday
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