Faces of Black History – History of Black History Month

image If you don’t know History you will be condemned to repeat it. That is a famous and oft quoted line meant to entice people to recognize an important event. Black History Month (BHM) is such a time that should be used to honor that statement and achievements of great importance. Over the month of February my blog will have a BHM focus.

Black History Month, or National African American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the often overlooked roles of African Americans in and on U.S. history. The event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans.

The story of Black History Month begins in 1915, fifty (50) years after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. It was also the first of three Amendments that are referred to as the Civil War Amendments. The Fourteenth Amendment extended protections to American Americans with three (3) important Clauses. The first was its Citizen Clause that provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v. Sandford ruling by the Supreme Court in 1857 that held that blacks could not be citizens of the United States. The second was its Due Process Clause which prohibits state and local governments from depriving persons of life, liberty, or property without certain steps being taken to ensure fairness. This clause has been used to make most of the Bill of Rights  applicable to the states. The third and final clause worth noting is its Equal Protection Clause which requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people within its jurisdiction. This clause was the basis for Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision in 1954 which precipitated the dismantling of racial segregation in the United States.

In September of 1915, Harvard trained historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), the group sponsored a national Negro History week in 1926. The ASNLH chose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas. The even inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs, host performances and lectures. Over the course of the years between 1926 and 1976, when then President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month, many mayors of cities across the country began issuing yearly proclamations recognizing Negro History Week. Black History Month (BHM) is not just celebrated in the U.S. it is also celebrated in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Let’s seize the opportunity to honor the too often neglected accomplishments of African Americans in every area of our history as Americans. Everyone knows of the accomplishments of a few select individuals that are continually presented in the press like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and now President Barack Obama. African Americans contribute greatly to the American life and dream. American History is OUR History and OUR History is American History. I will try to honor a few of the lesser know Americans of African descent that had or is having a huge, but largely, unknown impact on American history. Yet, because of the color of their skin, most are not mentioned in the history books until recently, if even at all.

Thanks to Sunny D for the inspiration for the series.

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