Black History Month is observed annually during the month of February.

According to Association for the Study of African American Life and History, each annual commemoration has a theme. This year’s theme is Black Resistance.

“African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings since our arrival upon these shores,” the association’s website states. “These efforts have been to advocate for a dignified self-determined life in a just democratic society in the United States and beyond the United States political jurisdiction.”

The association called for everyone, inside and outside the academy, to study Black American history.

History of Black History Month

In 1915, Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded an organization now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, per Library of Congress.

“Through this organization, Dr. Woodson initiated the first Negro History Week in February 1926,” the library’s website states.

This week included the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln — he chose it to commemorate both of these figures.

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Woodson’s parents were former enslaved persons and Woodson worked from a young age to support his family. He was the second Black American, after W.E.B. Du Bois, who earned a doctorate from Harvard University. According to the NAACP, Woodson saw that the historical profession didn’t have an interest in Black history and that contributions by African Americans were suppressed. Then, Woodson started a scholarly journal now known as the Journal of African American History.

He became a prominent scholar who “fervently believed that Black people should be proud of their heritage and all Americans should understand the largely overlooked achievements of Black Americans,” per NAACP.

The week that Woodson established was celebrated for several decades as Black Americans faced discrimination and disenfranchisement via Jim Crow laws. According to NPR, the civil rights movement led to increased awareness of Black history. Public schools began incorporating it into their curriculums. As Marcus Hunter, a sociology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said, Black publications began drawing more awareness to Black History Month.

“The Chicago Defender, the Philadelphia Tribune, the Baltimore Afro-American ... they all started to say that this is something we’re celebrating,” Hunter told NPR.

Eventually, the country recognized Black History Month. Former President Gerald Ford said in 1975 that whole country needed to “recognize the important contribution made to our nation’s life and culture by black citizens.” A year later, per NPR, Ford officially declared February Black History Month and said that the public should, “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

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On Tuesday, President Joe Biden’s White House administration issued a proclamation on Black History Month. The statement said, “During National Black History Month, we honor and continue the work of Black Americans who have created a more fair and inclusive democracy, helping our Nation move closer to the realization of its full promise for everyone.”

For those who want to learn more about Black American history, the Black History Month website includes several resources from various databases.