This archived article was written by: Mae Goss
The month of February is dedicated to African Americans and the contributions they made to the United States by devoting the month to their history.
Many ask when the celebration of their history began. In 1915, Dr. Carter G. Woodson launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions that African Americans made throughout American history.
Woodson’s parents were former slaves and he spent his childhood working in the Kentucky coal mines. He did not enroll in high school until the age of 20, where he graduated in two years. He later earned a doctorate in philosophy from Harvard University.
Woodson was disturbed to find in his studies that history books severely ignored the Black-American population. When the books did acknowledge the Black Americans, it was generally in ways that reflected their inferior social position, says infoplease.com.
Woodson chose the second week of February for Negro History week because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the black American population: Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
Most know Lincoln’s history, but few know that Douglass was a former slave who learned to read and write when employed by a mistress in Baltimore. Fearing capture as a fugitive slave, he spent several years in England and Ireland. He returned to U.S. after English friend purchased his freedom.
He established the North Star and edited it for 17 years in the abolitionist cause. He favored the use of political methods and helped organize two regiments of Massachusetts African Americans to join the Union ranks of the Civil War.
There are many other events that make February an ideal month to celebrate Black History. Some of these include:
Feb. 3, 1870
The 15th Amendment was passed. This amendment stated that the U.S. Constitution prohibits each government in the U.S. from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color or previous condition of servitude” (i.e., slavery).
Feb. 12, 1909
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded by a group of concerned black and white citizens in New York City. NAACP.org states, “For more than 90 years, the NAACP built and grew on the collective courage of thousands of people. People of all races, nationalities and faiths united on one premise-that all men and women are created equal.”
Feb. 21, 1965
Malcom X was assassinated. Wikipedia.com says, “In Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, Malcom X began to speak to a meeting of the Organization of Afro-American Unity when a disturbance broke out in the crowd of 400. A man yelled, ‘Nigger! Get your hand outta my pocket!’ As Malcom X and his bodyguards moved to quiet the disturbance, a man rushed forward and shot Malcom X in the chest with a sawed-of shotgun.
Two other men charged the stage and fired handguns, hitting him 16 times. Angry onlookers caught and beat one of the assassins as the others fled the ballroom. Malcom X was pronounced dead shortly after he arrived at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. “These dates and occurrences are courtesy of infoplease.com
Woodson devoted his life to making “the world see the Negro as a participant rather than as a lay figure in history,” says History.com, “To this end he established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History; [and] founded and edited the Journal of Negro History.”
Many reasons are given to recognize the sacrifices African Americans have made to the U.S., with the most important being the equality of all races and gender. The Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King Jr., helped establish the guidelines for the equal rights amendment that was passed by congress to the U.S. Constitution.