Since the mid-1970s, February has been designated as Black History Month in the United States. This celebration of Black history has grown immensely over the years, gaining recognition and understanding as time has passed. In the modern day, Black History Month has become a time to celebrate Black Excellence and reflect upon the injustices and cruelties that the United States has committed against Black folks since its inception.

Though he died many years before Black History Month became official, Dr. Carter G. Woodson is considered the father of this month-long celebration. Knowing his story plays a central role in keeping Black History Month alive.

Born in 1875 in Virginia, Dr. Carter G. Woodson worked as a sharecropper, a miner, and in many other labor-intensive positions. He was late to enter high school but was able to graduate in under two years. After graduation, he went on to study at Berea College in Kentucky and then to work as an education superintendent for the U.S. government in the Philippines. When he returned, he earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the University of Chicago before he earned his doctorate from Harvard.

A central part of Woodson’s mission was to educate African Americans about their culture’s history and heritage. In 1915, he founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASNLH). Because many African American families arrived as enslaved peoples, there were few documents or concrete pieces of information about their histories. In 1924, Woodson created Negro History and Literature Week. Wanting the celebration to be widespread, he began using ASNLH to get the word out on a larger scale.

As Negro History and Literature Week took hold, ANSLH struggled to keep up with the demand for informative materials and resources for the organizations that aimed to celebrate. This is how ANSLH grew, forming many branches around the country.

Though Woodson passed away suddenly in 1950, the Black Power and civil rights movements of the 1960s gave his mission new life. Young people began to join ASNLH and push for more modern and updated practices within the organization. It was during this time that ASNLH transitioned to the Association for the Study of African American History, and members pushed for a month-long celebration of Black history, rather than the week-long celebration that Woodson had created. On the 50th anniversary of the first Negro History Week, the Association for the Study of African American History officially began Black History Month.

Since its inception, Black History Month has become a widespread celebration of the Black community. Schools and other organizations focus on Black history during this time, and most presidents since the inception of the celebration have made a declaration about the impact of Black Americans. Though the progress has been slow and is certainly unfinished, Woodson’s vision has grown into a meaningful and respectful celebration of the history of the Black community.

During his lifetime, Woodson created the Journal of Negro History, which was central to getting the word out about the impact of Black Americans. Since communication was not instantaneous as it is today, a publication like his was crucial in gaining supporters for the movement. Though it is no longer in publication, the Journal of Negro History certainly inspired other modern publications committed to Black Excellence and achievement.

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