Black History Month, which is celebrated each year during February, is a chance for Americans to learn details of our nation’s history that, unfortunately, are far too often neglected and pushed to the wayside. As the saying goes, black history is American history — and it’s a varied and rich history.
A wise nation honors and learns from its past. It refuses to let the most important facts about our shared and collective memory disappear into the depths of forgotten history. What happened in the past shapes and informs where we are heading in the future, and it’s of paramount importance to set aside a month for learning as much as we can about black history.
Black History Month timeline
- February 10, 1976
BHM Gets Presidential Endorsement
Gerald Ford urges Americans to honor the U.S. Bicentennial by also celebrating Black History Month.
- February 1970
The Month First Observed
Proposed by black educators and students at Kent State University in 1969, the first Black History Month observance takes place one year later.
"Negro History Week" Established
The precursor to Black History Month is started by historian Carter G. Woodson, the "Father of Black History."
- February 12, 1909
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is founded.
How to Observe Black History Month
Visit a museum
History comes alive in our nation's museums, and many of these institutions have events, conferences and celebrations surrounding Black History Month. Get out there and see first-hand our nation's collective historical treasures.
Contact your elected official
One of the best ways to get the ball rolling toward a better society is by contacting members of Congress. Ask them what they have planned for Black History Month and what specific legislative actions they plan to take to ensure that your community never backtracks in its pledge to provide opportunities for each and every person.
Read, read, and read some more
Libraries and bookstores — not to mention online repositories and booksellers — are positively overflowing with amazing works of literature, history, and biography. Find a book about a piece of black history that you were previously unaware of and get educated.
5 Super Interesting Facts About Black American History
Rosa Parks wasn't the first
Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old girl, refused to move to the back of a bus nine months before Parks did.
MLK improvised his most famous speech
Although he had prepared notes, Martin Luther King Jr. improvised much of his "I Have A Dream" speech.
Esther came before Betty
The iconic cartoon character Betty Boop was modeled after a Harlem jazz singer named Esther Jones.
There were black senators in the 19th century
The first black U.S. senator was Hiram Revels, who took office in 1870.
Satchel Paige was baseball's first black hall-of-famer
Pitcher Satchel Paige was the first black player to be inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
Why Black History Month is Important
The past isn't dead. It's not even past!
Anybody who pays even a little attention to American social affairs and politics knows that we still have much work to do in order for this nation to truly live out its creed that everybody is "created equal." The lessons of Black History Month provide us with a way forward by examining our past.
It inspires us
There are so many stories that have yet to be told about the history of black America. Black History Month inspires us to search beyond the typical — and to seek out the extraordinary. The stories are waiting; we just have to go and find them.
History is also about the future
Martin Luther King Jr. said that "history books ... had almost completely ignored the contribution" of American blacks throughout history. Awareness of this undeniable fact can help us chart our nation's course to a more enlightened age for every American.