Did you know the origins of Black History Month can be traced to the South Side of Chicago? In 1915, led by multiculturalist historian Carter G. Woodson, a group of Black intellectuals gathered at the Wabash YMCA and formed an association to promote Black History. Woodson, their leader earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and a Ph. D in History from Harvard.
Woodson along with the other Black intellectuals that formed the association felt Black History was overlooked by scholars and absent from the curricula. Originally the idea was to empower the Black community and combat racism by educating White people on the positive accomplishments of Black people. Ultimately, the goal became to implement the study of Black History seamlessly into the curriculum.
In 1926, Woodson designated the second week of February “Negro History Week.” This week was chosen because two dates celebrated in the Black community, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) and Fredrick Douglass’s birthday (February 14), both fell within the 2nd week of February.
The idea was that Negro History Week would inspire Black History Month and that would inspire scholars to incorporate Black History into the school’s curriculum year-round. After years of hard work, Woodson inspired celebrations of Black History to sprout across the nation. In 1976, the celebration of Black History was formally expanded to the entire month of February. Starting with President Gerald Ford, every President has formally recognized and endorsed the celebration of Black History Month.
This monumental educational and cultural movement has become a part of our curricula today, but the ultimate goal of implementing Black History into lessons year-round is still unrealized.