NewsNational NewsScripps News


Why do we celebrate Black History Month in February?

February holds the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and Frederick Douglass, who was an activist for equality.
Why do we celebrate Black History Month in February?
Posted at 4:02 PM, Jan 31, 2024

Every February, Americans celebrate Black History Month. Its origins date back to 1915 when historian Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.

The organization, which now goes by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, held the first "Negro History Week" in February 1926, according to the Library of Congress.

He reportedly selected the week because it featured the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Lincoln played an important role in history, issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, which held that all slaves "shall be free." Douglass was also an important leader in the 1800s. He escaped from slavery and became an activist for equality.

With the growth of the civil rights movement, President Gerald Ford issued a Message on the Observance of Black History Week in 1975.

"It is most appropriate that Americans set aside a week to recognize the important contribution made to our nation's life and culture by our black citizens," he said.

SEE MORE: 10 meaningful ways to honor Black History Month in 2023

A year later, Ford would issue another message, this time observing Black History Month.

"I urge my fellow citizens to join me in tribute to Black History Month and to the message of courage and perseverance it brings to all of us," he stated.

In 1986, Congress passed a joint resolution declaring February 1986 as "National Black (Afro-American) History Month." The resolution states that the month offers learning institutions the opportunity to "gain a deeper understanding and knowledge of the many contributions of Black Americans to our country and the world."

According to the Library of Congress, presidents have issued annual proclamations for National Black History Month every year since 1996.

In this year's proclamation, President Joe Biden called on Americans to celebrate the "legacy of Black Americans whose power to lead, to overcome, and to expand the meaning and practice of American democracy has helped our Nation become a more fair and just society."

Trending stories at