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The Origins of Black History Month

Posted February 05, 2022 by Hannah Witteman

The Origins of Black History Month

In December of 1875, Dr. Carter G. Woodson was born to two former slaves. Because he spent most of his time helping out on his family farm, he didn't have time to go to school regularly. Instead of being uneducated, Woodson taught himself the basics of all subjects.

Later in life, Woodson would graduate from high school with only spending one year in the actual school, having taught himself primarily out of school. He became the high school principal while also earning his Bachelor's degree in literature from Berea College. He then went abroad to the Philippines and worked as an education supervisor before returning to the United States and earning his master's and Ph.D. from Harvard University. Woodson would become the second African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard University.

From his experiences throughout life and education, he noticed that education about black history and African Americans was overlooked and needed to be talked about more. This inspired him to become a writer and activist.

With four others, Woodson began to write about the history of African Americans in America and brought light to what life was like through their eyes.

He saw that white publishers were not publishing African American writers, so he started his own publishing company to produce their writings.

"He believed that if we could show that African Americans had made contributions in history like other races had, he would erase some of the hatred because, through more education and complete understanding of history, other people would appreciate the contributions of African Americans." Carter G. Woodson's Professor, Burnis Morris, told Record West Virginia.

Woodson's books were not the only reason he became well known in the black community. In 1926, he started a week that acknowledged the contributions made by African Americans, otherwise known as Negro History Week. Woodson chose the second week in February to hold the week to coincide with Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass's birthdays.

Negro History Week allowed people to celebrate their black history and educate others. Because of this, Woodson became known as "The Father of Black History".

As more awareness grew, Negro History Week had turned into Black History Month on many college campuses in the late 1960s. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month, calling upon the masses to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."


Pruitt, Sarah. "The Man Behind Black History Month.", A&E Television Networks, 2 Feb. 2017,

TEDtalksDirector. "The Symbols of Systemic Racism - and How to Take Away Their Power | Paul Rucker." YouTube, YouTube, 19 July 2018,

Yancey-Bragg, N'dea. "What Is Systemic Racism? Here's What It Means and How You Can Help Dismantle It." USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 29 Jan. 2021,

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