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Black History Month: 20 of the most famous African-Americans (Slideshow)

Black History Month is celebrated February in the United States of America. How did it come to be that February was chosen as the month for the celebration instead of any other month? Some have also asked: Why is the celebration during the shortest month of the year?

Martin Luther King Jr.: Civil Rights Leader
Black History Month

Looking at the historic events preceding the pronouncement of Black History Month explains why Americans celebrate it in February.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who lived from 1875 to 1950, began the efforts to incorporate African-American history into public schools and thereby became known as the Father of Black History. Woodson, a historic scholar, is noted as being the second African-American to receive a doctorate degree at Harvard.

At the age of 40, he was co-founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), and shortly thereafter, he founded the Journal of Negro History. Via his organizations, he promoted awareness of contributions of African-Americans throughout history.

In 1925, an African-American heritage and history week-long celebration was organized for a mid-February week. The time of year was chosen to incorporate the birthdays of two influential figures in African-American history: namely, the 16th President of the United States Abraham Lincoln who was also the signer of the Emancipation Proclamation and Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist. Lincoln’s birthday was on February 12, 1809 and Douglass’ birthday was on February 14, 1895.

The first Negro History Week occurred in February of 1926 and received an outstanding reception by many Americans. Schools were responding very positively to the organization’s effort to promote African-American contributions to the nation, and they requested more information on the topic to teach to their schools’ students. Additionally, progressive-white Americans joined in the effort to keep the recognition of society-contributing African-Americans alive and well.

In 1976, the year of the Bicentennial of America’s Independence, Negro History Week changed to the entire month of February: Black History Month. The U.S. President at that time, President Gerald Ford, asked the nation to embrace the month-long celebration – and the nation has ever since.

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