Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875 - 1950), son of former slaves and a Harvard trained historian, believed that truth could not be denied and that reason would prevail over prejudice. His hopes to raise awareness of African American's contributions to civilization was realized when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now known as Association for the Study of African American Life and History), conceived Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during the second week in February 1926 coinciding with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Black history clubs sprang up; teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils; and progressive whites, not just white scholars and philanthropists, stepped forward to endorse the effort.
By the time of Woodson's death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life and progress had been made in bringing more Americans to appreciate the celebration. At mid–century, mayors of cities nationwide issued proclamations noting Negro History Week. The Black Awakening of the 1960's dramatically expanded the consciousness of African Americans about the importance of black history, and the Civil Rights movement focused Americans of all color on the subject of the contributions of African Americans to our history and culture.
The celebration was expanded in 1976 during the bicentennial when President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” That year, fifty years after the first celebration, the association held the first African American History Month. Since then each American president has issued African American History Month proclamations. ASALH continues to promote the study of Black history month all year.
Scurlock, A. N. (1925). Dr. Carter G. Woodson [Photograph]. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America.