The year is 1915. It has been 50 years since the abolition of slavery was written into the constitution as the 13th amendment. This is the year that Dr. Carter G. Woodson and Rev. Jesse E. Moorland got together to form the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, ASNLH. This organization is what kick-started what is known today as Black History Month.
Carter Woodson, the son of a former slave and the second black person to earn a degree from Harvard University, held education to the highest standards, says Biography Channel’s website. When he and Reverend Moorland first started the organization, their goal was to research and bring to light the crucial role black people played in Americas, and the worlds, history. Woodson’s findings were then published the following year in The Journal of Negro History. Fast forward six years and the name has changed to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, ASALH, which is the name it is known as today. History Channel states that the ASALH sponsored a national Negro History Week in 1926. They specifically chose the second week in February since the dates coincide with Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays.
It took some time, but eventually Negro History Month became a celebration with lectures, performances and history clubs running the show. Mayors in cities across the globe realized the importance of the week and began issuing yearly proclamations at this time .With the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s and the thriving awareness of black identity, came the establishment of Negro History Week, which grew into a month long celebration. However, it wasn’t until 1976 that it was officially recognized by a president. “Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”, proclaimed President Gerald R. Ford. Nearly forty years later, Black History Month is still being proudly observed.
However, the treatment and roles that black people play today has changed significantly since the early 1900’s when Black History Month was first initiated. So the big question is, does this historic month still serve the same relevance today that it once did so many years ago, or has it lost its value? Lonnie Bunch, the director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, believes that it does. “The black community needs the glue of the African American past to remind us of not just how far we have traveled but lo, how far there is to go,” says Bunch on the museum’s website. But there will always be opinions against this month. One of the most well-spoken men in Hollywood, Morgan Freeman, finds the month to be “ridiculous.” In an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes he said, “I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history.”
Whether you agree or disagree with the celebration of Black History, one of the most relevant quotes on its importance today comes from its creator, Carter Woodson, almost a hundred years ago. “What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.”