Celebrating Black History Month

Every year during the month of February, the U.S. honors the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shape the nation. Black History Month celebrates the cultural heritage, triumphs, and adversities that are part of the country’s history. 

The celebration of Black History in the U.S. began in Chicago with Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-trained historian and alumnus of the University of Chicago. Woodson and four others, including A. L. Jackson and minister Jesse Moorland, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) in September 1915 at the Wabash YMCA. This organization was dedicated to researching and promoting the achievements of Black Americans and other people of African descent. The group sponsored national Negro History Week in 1926. 

Negro History Week prompted the creation of black history clubs, an increase in interest among teachers, and interest from progressive whites. In the following decades, mayors across the U.S. endorsed the idea and created holidays in their communities. 

Woodson envisioned a weeklong celebration to encourage the coordinated teaching of Black history in public schools. He designated the second week of February as Negro History Week and worked with other historians. The idea eventually gained acceptance, and by the late 1960s, Negro History Week evolved into Black History Month in some locations.

The first Black History Month celebration took place at Kent State University in 1970. February was chosen as Black History Month primarily because it includes the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, and since then every American President has done the same and endorsed a specific theme. 

Illinoisans come together every February to celebrate Black History Month with shows, concerts, events, and special exhibits. In the Chicagoland area, there are many destinations to consider visiting, including Black History Month Events in Illinois