Black History Fun Fact Friday returns next week with a brand new fun fact and our first special guest! Until then, I hope you enjoy this repost of how Black History Month got started.
Black History Month is around the corner. You know, the one time of the year that people are genuinely interested in Black History. Good thing you’ve got The PBS Blog, where we hit you up every week and all year round! Today, let us explore how Black History Month came to be.
Have you ever wondered why Black History Month is in February? You’ve heard it (or maybe even said it) “Why its gotta be the shortest month of the year tho?” Yea, that was you. It was me too. Before we get into that, let’s start from the beginning.
It starts with Dr. Carter G. Woodson, famous for his book The Mis-Education of the Negro, a book I highly recommend that you read (if you haven’t already).
Known as “The Father of Black History Month,” Carter was one of the first African Americans to receive a doctorate from Harvard and dedicated his career to the field of black history.
In 1915, Carter G. Woodson helped found the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (which later became the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History). The next year he established the Journal of Negro History and in 1921 formed the African-American-owned Associated Publishers Press. His goal was to center the contributions of African Americans. He wrote a dozen books, including but not limited to: A Century of Negro Migration (1918), The History of the Negro Church (1921), The Negro in Our History (1922) and The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933). The Mis-Education of the Negro is the most famous of these and is an often-recommended book by Historians and is also a book of study at Colleges. It centers on Black’s indoctrination into the American education system and touches on self-empowerment.
In 1926, Carter founded Black History Week. Black History Week eventually became Black History Month. It started as a program to encourage the study of Black History and was a week-long celebration in honor of Frederick Douglass (Born Feb. 14th) and Abraham Lincoln (Born Feb. 12th) and therefore Black History Month is in February.
Using Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is odd to me since Lincoln said that if he could have saved the Union without freeing any slaves he would have done it. Written during the Civil War, in one of Abraham Lincoln’s most famous letters to Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, Lincoln wrote about his focus to save the union, not to free the enslaved. Written while the Emancipation lay in his desk, not yet proclaimed, this letter is where the infamous quote comes from:
“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.” – Abraham Lincoln, excerpt from
Letter addressed to Horace Greeley, Washington, August 22, 1862.
Source: The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler
Learn more about Lincoln and the truth on his motifs concerning the freeing of the enslaved here.
In any event, in honor of these men, the program was held February of 1926 and was later expanded to an entire month as late as 1976.
And that, my people, is how Black History Month (the brief version) came to be.
Don’t Complain. Use What You Have.
I do not believe in colors. I believe in nations of people. I do not consider black and white to be nationalities set in motion by the creator but colors created by men. I believe that each human person belongs to a nation with land, laws, customs, and traditions to govern them. No one is black, white, or red. This doesn’t even make sense. Race was a concept developed by man to keep certain truths hidden and to promote racial superiority. Like you, I do not believe that Black History is something that should be assigned to one month, (for me it’s a way of life) let alone the shortest month, but I won’t complain about it. Instead, I’ll use it to further educate those whose eyes and ears are more open to hearing the truth. Every day is a chance to share Black history but instead of complaining about it is “the shortest month,” let us use February as an opportunity to awaken those who don’t know to the wide range of historical information that exists (but is largely left out of the textbooks) at a time where people are most interested to learn.
In the age of information where it is “cool to be conscious,” people aren’t as “woke” as they think they are. That said, if Black History Month is an opportunity for us to share knowledge and to introduce something to people at a time where they would pay attention, then we should do it. It has nothing to do with “celebrating black history month” but spreading the truth. If Black History Month helps people to understand who they are because their minds are open now, by all means, let us take advantage of it and stop complaining. Okay, so the month is short. That just means we better pack as much information into these 28 days as we can.
*Steps off soapbox*
And now, for my favorite Carter G. Woodson Quote:
“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his “proper place” and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.”
– Dr. Carter G. Woodson, “The Miseducation of the Negro”