Friday, February 3, 2012

Why Do We Have Black History Month?

Well, I guess that it was all truth when someone spoke the words: "You learn something new everyday!" While beating myself over the head about a blog idea, a light went off over the top of my head and like a ton of bricks, it hit me: Black History Month!
Then, two more tons of bricks landed on my head with a loud "THUD!" I realized that I did not know much about black history month! Who would have thought it, right? Who knew that Black History Month had a theme? Who knew that it first started out as ONE week? Well, I certainly didn't before I went on a "fact hunt" and gathered some information for your enjoyment (and mine, seeing as that before this blog idea happened, I knew only about 25% of this information)!
Black History Month is a month set aside to learn, honor, and celebrate the achievements of black men and women throughout history. Since its inception, Black History Month has always been celebrated in February. Find out how Black History Month originated, why February was chosen, and what the annual theme for Black History Month is for this year.
The origins of Black History Month can be traced back to a man named Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950). Woodson, the son of former slaves, was an amazing man in his own right. Since his family was too poor to send him to school as a child, he taught himself the basics of a school education. At age 20, Woodson was finally able to attend high school, which he completed in just two years.
He then went on to earn a bachelor's and master's degree from the University of Chicago. Three years after earning his doctorate, Woodson made a trip that had a great impact on him. In 1915, he traveled to Chicago to participate in a three-week celebration of the 50th anniversary of the end of slavery. The excitement and enthusiasm generated by the events inspired Woodson to continue the study of black history year-round. Before leaving Chicago, Woodson and four others created the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) on September 9, 1915. The following year, the ASNLH began publication of the Journal of Negro History.
Woodson realized that most textbooks at the time ignored the history and achievements of blacks. Thus, in addition to the journal, he wanted to find a way to encourage interest and study of black history. In 1926, Woodson promoted the idea of a "Negro History Week," which was to be held during the second week of February. Woodson chose the second week of February to celebrate Negro History Week because that week included the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14). The idea caught on quickly and Negro History Week was soon celebrated around the United States. With a high demand for study materials, the ASNLH began to produce pictures, posters, and lesson plans to help teachers bring Negro History Week into schools. In 1937, the ASNLH also began producing the Negro History Bulletin, which focused on an annual theme for Negro History Week.
In 1976, the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Negro History Week and the bicentennial of the United States' independence, Black History Week was expanded to Black History Month. Ever since then, Black History Month has been celebrated in February around the country.
Since its inception in 1926, Negro History Week and Black History Month have been given annual themes. The first annual theme was simply, "The Negro in History," but since then the themes have grown more specific. This year's theme is: Black Women in American Culture and History.
We have a display on this theme in the Children's Section (see picture). Come to your Library - and bring your children - to see the display and check out books on these historical women.  

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