United States

Black History Month 2024: Origin, Theme, Significance And All You Need To Know

Black History Month, celebrated annually in February, is a tribute to the rich heritage and contributions of African Americans. In 2024, its theme, "African Americans and the Arts," explores the profound impact of Black artists on American culture.

Courtesy: National Museum of African American History & Culture
Black History Month 2024 Photo: Courtesy: National Museum of African American History & Culture

As the annual celebration of Black History Month in America approaches, whether you're a student, an educator, or simply looking to expand your knowledge, here's essential information about Black History Month and ways to participate in its observance.

When is Black History Month in 2024?

Black History Month is annually celebrated in the United States throughout the month of February. It is also observed in February in Canada and during October in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

What is the theme for Black History Month 2024?

The theme for Black History Month 2024, is "African Americans and the Arts," as designated by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

This assigning of a theme has been a tradition since the 1920s when Black History Month was established.

Which president started Black History Month?

President Gerald R. Ford was the first president who played a pivotal role in its establishment by issuing a message in 1975 encouraging the recognition of what was initially Black History Week. Subsequently, it was extended to a month-long observance the following year.

In 1986, Congress passed a law, officially designating February as "National Black (Afro-American) History Month."

Who started Black History Month?

The origins of what we now recognize as Black History Month can be attributed to Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950).

At the dawn of the twentieth century, there was a prevailing belief that people of African descent had a limited historical presence beyond the context of slavery. Dr. Woodson played a significant role in changing this perception.

He founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in 1915, originally named the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and in 1916, he established the Journal of Negro History, which is now known as the Journal of African American History.

Dr. Woodson's efforts led to the creation of what initially was Black History Week, later expanded to become Black History Month. This observance was established to shed light on the rich history and contributions of African Americans.

It was 1926, when Dr. Carter G. Woodson announced the establishment of Negro History Week in February. The response to this initiative was tremendous, as reported by the association. Teachers all over the country expressed a strong desire to participate and requested educational materials for their students. These materials included photographs, lesson plans, historical plays for performances, as well as posters highlighting significant dates and notable individuals in African American history.

Why is Black History Month in February?

The reason Black History Month is observed in February is because it coincided with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and Frederick Douglass on February 14, both of whom were significant figures in Black history.

Dr. Woodson's intention was twofold. He aimed to leverage the existing celebrations of these two influential individuals to increase the success of Black History Week, but he also aspired to transform the tradition from solely honoring these two men into a broader examination of the achievements and contributions of the entire African American community.

Why is Black History Month important?

Black History Month holds significant importance for several reasons.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson initiated this annual observance with the goal of introducing school children to the rich history of Black Americans. His vision extended beyond education, as he aimed to highlight the substantial contributions made by Black individuals "to the advance of human civilization," as noted by the association.

Moreover, Dr. Woodson believed that by shedding light on the heroic figures within the Black community, whether they were inventors, entertainers, or soldiers, and emphasizing their influence on the formation of America, it would ultimately pave the way for greater equality in society, as explained by the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

While there are debates about the relevance of Black History Month in today's world, some argue that the diversity within the Black community necessitates the ongoing celebration of African American history.

"The great diversity within the black community needs the glue of the African American past to remind us of not just how far we have traveled but lo, how far there is to go," said Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the museum, in a plea to continue seeing Black history as something deserving of year-round and annual recognition.

How To Celebrate Black History Month?

Black History Month revolves around the preservation of Black history through education and celebration.

In alignment with this year's artistic theme, the National Museum of African American History and Culture offers a digital toolkit to explore the stories of "Black people who have used art as their platform for social justice."

Additionally, you can find valuable resources on websites such as blackpast.org and the Black History 101 Mobile Museum. For those interested, there's also the opportunity to virtually participate in the 2024 Black History Month Festival.