Black History Month

    By Kelly Maue

    February is Black History Month, a time to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans. President Gerald Ford officially started the tradition in 1976 to bring attention to “achievements that have too long been obscured and unsung.”

    The celebration dates back to 1915, and Carter Woodson gets the credit. As the second black man to earn a doctorate from Harvard, much of Woodson’s work revolved around education. Specifically, he wanted to ensure that the general population learned about the heritage and accomplishments of African Americans. 

    His idea of Negro History Week came to him while in Chicago during an observance of the 50th anniversary of emancipation. Woodson initially chose the second week of February because African Americans already celebrated the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, which fell within that period. However, what began in 1926 as a week-long event quickly evolved into our current month-long observance.

    Including and following Gerald Ford, each president has issued a proclamation honoring Black History Month. Forty years after Ford’s initial declaration, the country’s first Black president, Barack Obama, shared his unique perspective.

    “We’re the slaves who quarried the stone to build this White House; the soldiers who fought for our nation’s independence, who fought to hold this union together, who fought for freedom of others around the world. We’re the scientists and inventors who helped unleash American innovation. We stand on the shoulders not only of the giants in this room but also countless, nameless heroes who marched for equality and justice for all of us.”

    Black Americans influence and create our overall American culture. Can you imagine a world without Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr, Chuck Berry, or Rosa Parks? From sports legends, artists, and performers – to scientists, literary geniuses, activists, and beyond – Black Americans have made countless contributions to this country. 

    And although Black History Month shines a light on a rich heritage, it should not be considered different – or isolated – from American history. Our country’s past and culture are not black-or-white issues; they are all intertwined.