“Truth comes to us from the past, then, like gold washed down from the mountains.” - Carter Godwin Woodson
As we all know, February is the month in which the celebration of Black History also known as African-American History, is observed here in America. This annual occasion has been recognized nationally since 1976 as a time in which America pays homage to the many contributions that individuals of African descent have made to the success of America. But did you know that Black History Month did not start out as a month long celebration?
After receiving his Ph.D. in History from Harvard University in 1912, Carter Godwin Woodson embarked on a mission of making the history of African-Americans both visible and respected. Credited with being the “Father of Black History”, now American historian, author and journalist, Carter G. Woodson along with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History decided in 1926 to designate the second week of February as “Negro History Week”. They chose the second week of February as the time of recognition because it marked the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
Frederick Douglass, a former American slave, social reformer and statesman was widely recognized for his amazing oratory and incisive antislavery writing. Of his many autobiographies, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave; written in 1845, was one of his most widely recognized works and became influential in its support for abolition. Years later, in the midst of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued an executive order and signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 putting an end to the practice slavery in America. These two individuals have been noted as being major influencers in America’s history and orchestrators of its path.
Woodson's first book was on the history of African-American education--The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861, published in 1915. In his preface, he asserted both the importance and the glory of the African-American story: "the accounts of the successfull strivings of Negroes for enlightenment under most adverse circumstances read like beautiful romances of a people in a heroic age."
Today we are grateful to Carter G. Woodson’s foresight and commitment to educate Americans about their history. His determination to expand the minds of all people through the experiences and contributions that African-Americans have made for generations grants us all the ability to benefit from these truths. With the vast evolution and cultural embrace of our society, we all now know that Black History is American History. In celebration of Black History Month, we encourage you to learn more about the influential men and women who have made history here in America.
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