The Meaning of Black History Month


Hello all! My name is Alexis Adler and I’m here today to talk about Black History Month, since we are celebrating it right now; February 1st-March 1st. You may have some questions, like: What is it? When and why did it start? Why do we even need to celebrate it? And I’m here to answer a majority of those questions!

What is it? Black History Month is an annual celebration that is celebrated throughout the month of February. It is celebrated to show the achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history. It is hoped to stop racial injustice around the world, even in the U.S.

When and why did it start? The precursor to Black History Month was created in 1926 in the United States, when historian, Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week”. In the early 20th century, while Woodson earned a Masters degree from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from Harvard (both in history), Woodson witnessed how black people were diminished in the books and conversations that built the study of American history. According to the way many historians taught the nation’s past, African Americans were barely part of the story—a narrative that Woodson knew was not true. So in 1915, he and Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, or the ASALH). The organization would promote studying black history as a discipline and celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans.

Why do we even need to celebrate it? This is an important question. Black History Month was a way of teaching students and young people about Black and African-Americans’ contributions. Such stories had been largely forgotten and were a neglected part of the national narrative. Now, it’s seen as a celebration of those who’ve impacted not just the country but the world with their activism and achievements.

In the US, the month-long spotlight during February is an opportunity for people to engage with black histories, go beyond discussions of racism and slavery, and highlight black leaders and accomplishments. Not to mention, some African-Americans today are often treated horribly. There are some who continue to treat one group of people different because of the color of their skin. They may quickly assume the worst of a young black man and even use words like “thug” to describe him. That’s why it’s important to break through the ignorance and teach black heritage.

The same might be said for the Black Lives Matter movement and some people’s reaction to it. For example, people say “All Lives Matter”. Although, yes that is 100% true, do we need to worry about all lives? For example, if one house in a neighborhood is burning down and someone says “We have to go save that house!” and someone else answers, “What about the other houses? They matter, too.” But, all the houses aren’t burning down. So, do we need to put out fires in all the houses or just one? So maybe the BLM house is the house that matters at the moment. All lives aren’t being treated badly and they aren’t being arrested or killed for little or no reason.

So, now more than ever it’s a time to learn and acknowledge the truth about the contributions of African-American culture and black history. If we don’t, we risk our own futures and the true riches of a people and culture who’ve helped make America and the world the amazing place it is… and still can be.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email