African Americans have contributed immensely to the history and development of the United States. They have been at the center of every pivotal turn the country has made even during the dark ages of slavery and subsequent struggle for civil rights and equality. From outstanding sportsmen to economists, military men and women, politicians and scientists, African Americans have proudly represented and sworn allegiance to the Star-Spangled Banner. However, despite Black contributions to shaping the history of the U.S, history books and discourses have often maligned, ignored or confined their contributions to insignificant pages.
Luckily, the dedication of Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland pioneered the recognition of African Americans’ history. Their efforts in 1915 led to the study of Black accomplishments in the history of America. What they started in the 20th century as a one-week event has transformed into a whole-month event that has thrust African American history into the consciousness of Americans and the world at large.
Early Beginnings: A One-week Event
Carter G. Woodson teamed up Jesse E. Moorland in 1915 and formed an association whose primary objective was to promote the scholarly discussion of African American history. They led concerted efforts to ensure that the valuable achievements of African Americans were never relegated to the backburner of history discourses including school and college curricula. Woodson argued that the lack of academic discourse on African American history put them in danger of being exterminated as they would be considered as negligible and with no heritage. The Negro History Week flagged off in 1926 was organized every year, on the second of February. They aimed at dedicated the week to studying and celebrating the accomplishments of African Americans in various fields across various school systems.
Within a short period of time, the idea picked up momentum and many school systems and political leaders embraced the idea. The choice of the second week of February to organize the event was symbolic. Two of staunchest supporters of abolition of slavery, President Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass’ birthdays were celebrated within a space of two days within the same week.
Modern Day Celebrations
With several presidential decrees, the Negro History Week transformed into a month-event with February set aside for the celebrations. The current celebrations are usually organized around specific themes and marked by events taking place across various historical sites and institutions in the country.
The 2018 celebrations will honor African Americans who took part in various wars involving the United States.