Since 1976, February has been known as Black History Month–a month dedicated to celebrating the lives, heritage, and contributions of black people in America. “Black History Month shouldn’t be treated as though it is somehow separate from our collective American history…,” said President Barack Obama in a 2016 speech. “It’s about the lived, shared experience
Since 1976, February has been known as Black History Month–a month dedicated to celebrating the lives, heritage, and contributions of black people in America.
“Black History Month shouldn’t be treated as though it is somehow separate from our collective American history…,” said President Barack Obama in a 2016 speech. “It’s about the lived, shared experience of all African Americans, high and low, famous and obscure, and how those experiences have shaped and challenged and ultimately strengthened America. It’s about taking an unvarnished look at the past so we can create a better future. It’s a reminder of where we as a country have been so that we know where we need to go”1.
While the men who said them may be separated by around 100 years, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the ‘Father of Black History Month,’ held similar beliefs to President Obama that Black History is essential knowledge to every American and the foundation of this nation. In honor of Black History Month and Dr. Woodson, who dedicated his life to giving a voice to other Black leaders and disseminating critical information about Black History, Capitol Tech will celebrate Black STEM innovators and their important, industry changing contributions this month2.
Dr. Woodson, who was born in Virginia in 1875 to former slaves, missed school regularly as working worked on his family’s farm took precedence2. Despite missing much of his formal education in favor of working on the farm and later as a West Virginian miner in high school, Dr. Woodson took the initiative to teach himself what he missed in school3. At age 20, Dr. Woodson enrolled in Douglass High School and graduated in only two years2,4. With this high school diploma and his knowledge, mostly derived from his vigorous self-guided studies, Dr. Woodson began a career in as the principal of his alma mater and a school supervisor in the Philippines3. He also continued his own education by studying at a university in Paris, earning a BA in Literature from Berea College in Kentucky, an MA from the University of Chicago in 1908, and in 1912 he earned a PhD in History from Harvard University, becoming the second African American to earn a doctoral degree from the university following the illustrious W.E.B. DuBois3,4.
In addition to his scholastic accomplishments, Dr. Woodson became a “distinguished Black author, editor, publisher, and historian” who published articles and over 30 books detailing the essential contributions of black Americans to the nation’s development and citizens1. Dr. Woodson also created channels for other Black scholars to have their voices heard including the Associated Publishers, the Journal of Negro History, the Negro History Bulletin, and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History which is now known as the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH)2,3,4,5. In 1936, Dr. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland established ‘Negro History Week’–the predecessor to Black History Month2,3,4,5.
Negro History Week officially became Black History Month in 1976 under President Gerald Ford who told citizens to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”5,6.
The ASNLH remains active, operating under Dr. Woodson’s “legacy of speaking a fundamental truth to the world–that Africans and peoples of African descent are makers of history and co-workers in what W. E. B. Du Bois called, “The Kingdom of Culture””7.
Dr. Woodson’s lasting contributions to the United States and all of its citizens are a testament to the power of human dedication and the desire to proliferate equality.
Check back for more blogs about influential Black Americans, particularly focused on Black STEM innovators, throughout February as Capitol Tech celebrates Black History Month.
- The Oprah Magazine. (2021, January 7). The Reason Black History Month Is in February. Retrieved from https://www.oprahmag.com/life/a26077992/why-is-black-history-month-in-february/.
- Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum. About Us. Retrieved from https://woodsonmuseum.org/about-us/.
- NAACP. (2021). NAACP History: Carter G. Woodson. Retrieved from https://www.naacp.org/naacp-history-carter-g-woodson/.
- History. (2021, January 14). The Man Behind Black History Month. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/news/the-man-behind-black-history-month.
- History. (2021, January 28). Black History Month. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month.
- African American History Month. About African American History Month. Retrieved from https://africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/about/.
- ASALH. (2021). About Us. Retrieved from https://asalh.org/about-us/.