What we now know of as Black History Month started out as “Negro History Week.” Although African Americans had been in the United States from the Colonial Days, it wasn’t until the 20th century that their story came to be told and honored.
The week was the idea of Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and other renowned African Americans looking to recognize the role of their race in U.S. history. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life in 1915. He followed up the year later with a journal of African American history. The first “Negro History Week” was held in the second week of February in 1926 to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
Since 1976, every American president has officially recognized February as Black History Month. Other countries also mark an annual celebration of Black contributions, such as in Canada or the United Kingdom. Woodson is said to have remarked: “Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”