African American History Month: Celebrating the contribution of African Americans

Black History Month (African American History Month)

Overtime, the African Americans have become an integral part of the US society. The Black History month is just a way to celebrate their achievements and contribution to the making of American society and culture. Apart from America, Canada and UK too celebrate the Black History month. African American people have been an inseparable part of the American cultural heritage. The Black History month is also a way to pay tribute to those African Americans who struggled to win an equal status in the American society and particularly to Martin Luther King Junior’s dream of equality. The origins of the event lie in 1915. Carter G Woodson was the second African American to have earned a doctorate from Harvard after W E B Dubois. Woodson saw that the African American legacy was being left out of the American educational curriculum. The mention of African American people was generally made in the context of slavery and their prestigious contributions were largely omitted. To Woodson it appeared quite demeaning.

Woodson decided to dedicate himself to the task of bringing black history to the forefront so that people and young students could understand the contribution of African Americans in the making of modern America.   However, Woodson’s intention was not limited to just these things. He also intended to inspire the African Americans and help them understand their ethical values and inculcate in them a sense of social responsibility and self dependence. Apart from that, Woodson knew he would also be able to reduce some of the negative stereotyping and racial hatred against the African American people through his endeavors. He went on to lay the foundation of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History that later came to be known as the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. His main aim was to promote and showcase the historical achievements and contributions of the African American population. Woodson also wrote several books where his key focus was to inspire the African American population for self-empowerment.

However, Woodson did not stop there. His focus was to bring increased attention to African American history and for it he lobbied several schools and organizations. The roots of the Black History month lie in the Negro History week.  Woodson and Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History sponsored the Negro History week in 1926 which was later expanded to become the Black History Month. The reason that the month of February was celebrated for the celebrations was because it was the the birth month of two important people in Black history –abolitionist Frdereick Douglass and President Lincoln. Awareness of the Black identity had kept growing through years and by 1960 the Negro History week had become the Black History month. In several school and college campuses and communities, lectures, performances and celebrations were being organized to celebrate the spirit of African American struggle. The Black History month was recognized officially in 1976 when President Ford requested people to honor the contributions of the nation’s African American population throughout the history. Since then every year, the American Presidents have honored the tradition assigning a new theme each year. The theme for 2017 is the Crisis in Black Education. This theme particularly tries to bring people’s attention to the public schools in the urban neighborhoods where the African American students have to study. These schools are characterized by a lack of resources and overcrowding.  

The National Museum of African American History and culture is the only museum that is dedicated to the documentation of African American history and culture. The museum was established in 2003 by an Act of Congress. Today, this museum has collected more than 36000 artifacts related to African American culture and history.  It is the newest museum on Smithsonian Institution. Throughout February this year Smithsonian will hold discussions, talks and concerts to commemorate the legacy of African American leaders Like King and Woodson.