It’s Time to Rethink Black History Month

February 26, 2014

Growing up, every year during Black History Month it seemed like the same three people were always discussed in school: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and W. E. B. Du Bois. If my friends and I were lucky, sometimes we heard about George Washington Carver, who invented peanut butter, or the Tuskegee Airmen. But one thing was constant: The people we heard about were almost always male, and the people and events we were encouraged to reflect on existed in a time and place I did not feel connected to.

Black History Month began back in 1926, when Carter G. Woodson, along with his organization, the Association for the Study of Negro Life, started encouraging the nation to celebrate “Negro History Week.” Woodson hoped that the week in February would encourage organizations and teachers to spread and popularize the information uncovered during their studies of Black life and history. In the late 1960s, at the outset of the Black power movement, interest in Black-American history increased, and the nomenclature changed. As a result, in 1976 the Association for the Study of Negro Life officially expanded the celebration to Black History Month. In 1986, Congress officially designated February as Black History Month, which remains with us today as a celebration of the contributions Blacks throughout the diaspora have made to world history.


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