“Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity” is the theme of this year’s Black History Month.
This cultural heritage month in February often is used for reflection and acknowledgment of the African diaspora and the significant contributions of Black people in the United States. In recent months and years, many also used this month as a call to action against the struggle for racial justice. It often is celebrated with distinguished lectures, musical and artistic performances and historical remembrance.
For the last 45 years, Black History Month has been celebrated in several countries including Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Every year since 1976, each U.S. president has designated February as Black History Month beginning with President Gerald Ford. During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, President Ford called upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
The concept of Black History Month is credited to Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-educated historian, and others including support from prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland.
In September 1915, Woodson and Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by Black Americans and others of African descent. Eleven years later in 1926, the U.S. celebrated Negro History Week during the second week of February.
Woodson chose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass, a famed abolitionist who escaped from slavery, and President Abraham Lincoln, who formally abolished slavery. In addition, Feb. 1 is National Freedom Day, the anniversary of the approval of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in 1865.
Ways to celebrate Black History Month
- Join an event sponsored by Mercer University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion
- Visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture online for digital programming
- If you own a business, view the NAACP’s guidance for brands on the best way to honor Black History Month