Every year since 1976, each U.S. president has made an official designation of February as Black History Month. Black History month provides an opportunity to celebrate the achievements made by black Americans throughout U.S. history. The theme for Black History in 2012 is “Black Women in American History and Culture.”
The origins of Black History Month go back to 1915, when Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) — known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) — an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by black Americans and other peoples of African descent. In 1926 this group sponsored a national “Negro History week,” choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The event inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs and host performances and lectures.
According to Dr. Woodson, a knowledge of black history would, “besides building self-esteem among blacks, help eliminate prejudice among whites.”
President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized February as “Black History Month” in 1976, calling 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.”
When teaching Black History, it is valuable to see the achievements of black Americans in the context of the times in which they occurred. As a supplement to a history/social studies curriculum, think of how engaging it will be for students to see the actual historical documents that recount the achievements of the African American players — both well-known and obscure. The African-American Historical News Journal — a compilation of news articles from 1778-1956 — offers 178 years of our nation’s history as documented through actual newspapers of the time. This historical document ensures a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, the struggles and triumphs of black Americans throughout U.S. history.
Arkansas State University
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