Black History Month: It’s About More Than Peanuts

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Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of people of color in U.S. history. The event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of historian Carter G. Woodson and others. Since 1976, B Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history.

The story of Black History Month begins in 1915, fifty years after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. That September, the Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by black Americans and others born of African descent.

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Known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the group sponsored a national Negro History week in 1926. The second week of February was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The event inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs, as well as host performances and lectures.

By the late 1960s, thanks in part to the Civil Rights Movement and a growing awareness of black identity, Negro History Week had evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses. President Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, asking the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Since then, every American president has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme. The 2013 theme, At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington, marks the 150th and 50th anniversaries of two pivotal events in African-American history.

Often, students learn the basics during Black History Month- Harriet Tubman and George Washington Carver, but there are many more contributions to society than the greatly important works of Tubman and the innovations of Carver. Both Tubman and Carter are vital parts of American history, however, as Leslie Jones so eloquently stated on SNL earlier this month,  “Here’s my issue: We cram all of black history into just one month. All we have time for is George Washington Carver and all his peanut stuff. We should teach all black history all the year round and teach it to everybody.”

Below is a gallery of black men and women without whom our country, and the world, would be a very different place. These people should be celebrated all year because the mark left by them is not solely felt in the short month of February.

Jeff B. White
Jeff White is a News Editor and contributor for The Pacific Tribune. Jeff is a gay man who was born and raised in Mississippi; he has lived all over the country, but will always consider the South to be his home. Mr. White's passion for the truth and empathy for those less fortunate are driving forces in all that he does.