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Black History Month has a Rich History Rooted in Racial Struggle

Glodean Champion

Black History Month has been celebrated in February since 1926. Although black Americans have been in America since the first slave ship arrived in 1517, it was not until the 20th century that they gained a notable presence in American history books.

The celebration of Black History Month is owed to Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Throughout his studies, Woodson was dismayed to find that his history books largely excluded the black American population. He found that when black Americans were mentioned, it was generally in ways that mirrored the inferior social positions they held at the time. As a result, Woodson took on the challenge of researching and then recording black history. Born to parents who were former slaves, Woodson worked in the Kentucky coalmines throughout his childhood and was not able to enroll in high school until the age of 20. Within two years he earned his high school diploma and later went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University.

“He put on the minds of people of all ethnicities that black people do have a history,” said assistant English professor Ajuan Mance. “In effect, he invented black history and I think we owe him a massive amount of gratitude.”

In 1915, Woodson established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and the Journal of Negro History in the following year. In 1926, he launched Negro History Week in an attempt to bring national attention to the contributions of black Americans throughout American history. In honor of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, Woodson decided that Negro History Week would be celebrated during the second week of February. In 1976, Negro History Week was expanded to the month of February and the name was changed to Black History Month.

“Black History month is a reminder to celebrate black history every other month,” said senior Keeshia Anderson.

Some students feel that Black History Month unnecessarily celebrates something that should be observed regularly. “People shouldn’t need a month to celebrate black history. I think it’s necessary, but I don’t think there needs to be a reason. In other words, I think it would be better if black history was celebrated and studied on a regular basis,” said senior Christy Ray.