The Origins of Black History Month

Dr. Carter G. Woodson Museum located in St. Petersburg. Yellow building with white pillars on either side of the entrance.

For decades now, Black History Month has been synonymous with February. Unfortunately, many people do not know the origins of the culturally significant month.  

Black History Month dates back to 1915 and the work of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard educated historian, and Jesse E. Moorland, a well-known minister. Together, Woodson and Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). The mission of the organization was to research and promote the achievements by Black Americans and others of African descent.  

Today this organization is known as the Association of the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), it is this organization that sponsored a Negro History Week. Negro History Week began in 1926 and the second week of February was selected to honor Negro History because both Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass’ birthdays fell within that week.  

Dr. Carter G. Woodson dressed in a suit and tie.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson

For many decades to follow, mayors across the country issued proclamations to celebrate Negro History Week. In the 1960s, many college campuses expanded Negro History Week to Black History Month. While educational institutions across the country were celebrating Black History Month, it wasn’t until 1976 when President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month that it became nationally acknowledged and celebrated. 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.” 

In the years since President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month cities around the United States have grown in celebrating the history of Black Americans. St. Petersburg is home to the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum which celebrates the crucial roles that African Americans have played in the growth and development here in St. Peterburg. 

SPC will be celebrating Black History Month with several educational events throughout February, including an African American History trivia night as well as a historical webinar that will focus on the Civil Rights Movement here in the Tampa Bay area. We encourage everyone to participate and help us honor the impact that Black citizens have made in society throughout history.

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