February marks the Black History Month in the United States, a country that has a deep-rooted history of enslavement and racial injustice. This year, the Black History Month comes more under the spotlight after the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests that took place in 2020.
The protests were prompted after George Floyd, a man in Minneapolis, was murdered by the state police for allegedly carrying a counterfeit $20 note. The police officer named David Chauvin knelt on George’s neck for more than eight minutes and the incident was even caught on camera. Just like George, there was another Black victim of police brutality in Louisville, Kentucky, named Breonna Taylor who was shot dead by the police in March 2020.
It was these multiple incidents of racial injustice from the state-run authorities in the US that sparked the nationwide movement. Hence, this year’s Black History month becomes more important, while it has been celebrated since 1926.
Who started the Black History month?
It was Carter G. Woodson who introduced this tradition. Woodson worked in the coal mines as a child but worked his way up through teaching himself basic English, arithmetic and went on to study in high school where he completed the four year’s education in two. Woodson went on to have a PhD from Harvard University. Through his education, Woodson realized that there was no mention of African Americans in the American education system. To document the contributions made by African Americans in the US, he established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and founded a publication named the Journal of Negro History. In 1926, he created the Negro History Week. In 1976, when the Civil Rights Movement was at its peak, President Gerald Ford expanded the Negro History Week into Black History Month.
Why is it celebrated in February?
Father of Black History month, Carter Woodson decided to celebrate the Black History month in the second week of February because it also marks the birthdays of two men who influenced the Black American population in the US.
The first man is Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery and became an abolitionist and civil rights leader and celebrated his birthday on February 14.
The second week of February also has the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation which abolished slavery in America's confederate states. Lincoln was born on February 12.
What happens in Black History Month?
The idea behind the creation of this occasion was to honor and remember the Black Americans who have made remarkable contributions in various fields in the US right from their ancestors. Woodson started the Negro History Week so that the Black Americans could be proud of their culture and ancestors, who were often looked down upon by the white supremacists.