Carter G. Woodson
To commemorate and celebrate the contributions to our nation made by people of African descent, American historian Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week. The first celebration occurred on Feb. 12, 1926. For many years, the second week of February was set aside for this celebration to coincide with the birthdays of abolitionist/editor Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, as part of the nation’s bicentennial, the week was expanded to a month. Since then, U.S. presidents have proclaimed February as National African-American History Month.
In the fall of 1870, a handful of students made their way through the northwest quadrant of the nation’s capital, and through the doors of D.C.’s “Preparatory High School for Colored Youth,” the country’s first public high school for African American children. The students and teachers who graced its hallways would be heard through the years in the halls of Congress, in the highest ranks of the United States military, at the heart of our civil rights movement, and in the upper echelons of medical and scientific study.
One such voice was that of Carter G. Woodson; a journalist, author, historian, and co-founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). It was through his work with the ASNLH that Woodson spearheaded the celebration of “Negro History Week” in America, which served as the precursor to Black History Month, which was officially recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976. Woodson taught us that, “those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”