When I think about Black History Month, the first thought that comes to mind is the exact moment I understood its importance. I was in the eleventh grade, and I was taking a government class.
As part of the class, my teacher would play Black history videos for us and then we had to write a paper on these videos. Considering that my instructor was from a different race, I appreciated the fact that he was willing to research and find resources that would properly teach Black history to his students.
I still remember the video about the Montgomery bus boycott in the 1950s. When it finished, my teacher said, “Many people suffered so you didn’t have to sit in the back of the bus, and now you all run to the back of the bus.”
I remember that statement hitting me like a ton of bricks because it was so true. To this day, I try my best to sit near the front of a bus if possible because someone fought to give me that opportunity.
Related: Black History Month: Celebrating the Contributions
The Origin of Black History Month
After I had my moment of clarity, it made me want to research the history of Black History Month. Over the years, I heard many reasons why Black History Month was in February. I often heard thoughts such as “It is in February because it is the shortest month,” but somehow, I knew there was more to Black History Month than that.
According to NPR, Black History Month was originally Negro History Week, created by Harvard professor Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1926. He chose the second week of February to honor the birthdays of two great men he admired, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. In 1976, February was officially designated as Black History Month by President Ford, according to the American Presidency Project.
Today, the organization that Dr. Woodson founded in 1915, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH®), is the official promoter of Black History Month. ASALH also designates Black History Month’s annual theme, which is “Black Resistance” in 2023.
Related: Shirley Chisholm: A Political Pioneer and an Inspiration
Learning about Other Black Trailblazers
After researching the origin of Black History Month, I continued my studies to learn about Black trailblazers in technology, music, education and writing. As I read about all of the struggles those people went through to achieve what they did and make their marks in history, I remember feeling proud of the great leaders who preceded me.
At the same time, I was sad because I think about how far we still have to go in many cases to achieve true diversity and equality.
I also considered their achievements due to their determination to move forward. According to a 2022 NewsOne article, there are still Black people achieving noteworthy “firsts,” including:
- Karen Bass – the first Black Female to serve as the mayor of Los Angeles
- Dr. Claudine Gay – the first Black Female to serve as the president of Harvard University
- Mike Grier – the first Black General Manager in the National Hockey League
Black History Month Should Be an Inspiration for Everyone
The sky is the limit on the future of black history as a whole. All of the Black people on NewsOne’s list have these possibilities due to the centuries of pioneers who preceded and inspired them. It is an honor to celebrate all black pioneers – past, present and future – during every Black History Month and every day!
ASALH is a registered trademark of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
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