Have you ever wondered how Black History Month came to be? Are you one of those people who recognize February as Black History Month but just don’t have a clue why we even celebrate it? Don’t worry…..we’ve got you covered. This article will enlighten you on several Black History Month Facts, some of which I’m sure will surprise you.
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Black History Month is quite popularly known as an annual celebration of African American history, which places the spotlight on African Americans who have made contributions to the United States of America. It was originally seen as a way to teach young people about the invaluable contributions that black people, and more specifically African Americans, have made to society. Unfortunately, these contributions were often forgotten or left out of the narratives on the growth of American society. Today, Black History Month is seen as a celebration of those who’ve impacted not just the United States of America, but the wider world with their activism and achievements.
Without further ado, here are some amazing facts about Black History Month worth you remembering.
Before Black History Month, there was Negro History Week. During this time, black history celebrations lasted only one week in February. This stemmed from Carter Woodson, who later became known as the father of black history. Woodson was a historian and a well published author who was concerned that the stories of black history were not being told. He wanted to ensure that black people did not forget who they were and where they came from and what they contributed to American history. As a result, he announced the second week of February to be a week dedicated to celebrating black history.
This lasted until the 1960s when colleges and universities began to expand the recognition of African American history to the full month of February. It was made a national holiday in 1976, when President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month, and it became the month-long celebration that we know of today.
Fact # 2
The Black History holiday has evolved, where today, organizations such as Black Lives Matter look towards the future of Black Americans and celebrate Black Future Month in conjunction with Black History Month.
The month of February was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, while Douglass, whose true date of birth is unknown, celebrated his birthday on February 14th. Both men played a major role in ending slavery and were widely celebrated by the black communities at the start of Negro History Week in 1926.
Each year, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History chooses a particular theme to focus the celebrations on. For instance, in the year 2021, the theme is “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity” and will explore the African diaspora.
Although the practice of celebrating Black History Month originated in America, other countries have since started their own celebrations. Canada, like America, celebrates in the month of February, while countries like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Ireland, celebrate in October.
Black History Month celebrates the lives of important people and events in African American history. Popular people celebrated include Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Thurgood Marshall, and Rosa Parks just to name a few.
Black History Month is not only important for the black community, but for the understanding and tolerance of all cultures and races.
Other Memorable Black History Facts
- One of the most prominent doctors of his time, Dr. Charles Drew, created the first major blood banks, blood plasma programs and bloodmobiles.
- George Washington Carver developed 300 derivative products from peanuts. These included cheese, milk, coffee, flower, ink, dyes, plastic, and cosmetics.
- A full-time nurse named Marie Van Brittan Brown invented the first home security system.
- Jack Johnson became the first African American man to hold the world heavyweight champion boxing title in 1908, and held on to the belt until 1915 when Jess Willard took the title.
- In 2008, Usain Bolt became the first man to win three world records at a single Olympics event.
- In 2018, Kobe Bryant became the first athlete and the first black person to win an Oscar for Best Animated Short for his film, Dear Basketball. He was also a credited writer for the project.
- Hiram Rhodes Revels became the first African American person elected to the U.S. Senate. She served from February 1870 to March 1871.
- In 2008, President Barack Obama became the first African American to hold the office of President of the United States of America.
- In 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris made history as the first female, first black and first Asian-American US vice-president.
- Halle Berry was the first African American to win an Academy award for Best Actress for her role in the movie Monster’s Ball.
- Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to win an Oscar award, was not allowed to attend the national premiere of ‘Gone With The Wind’, the film featuring her award-winning performance, because she was black.
- Singer Stevie Wonder helped to make Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday with the assistance of special lyrics from his “Happy Birthday” song.
- The Black Panther character first appeared in comic books in 1966.
- The Black Panthers launched programs such as free dental care, free breakfast, and drama classes in underserved black communities.
- John Mercer Langston became the first African American lawyer in the United States when he passed the bar in 1854. He’s also the great-uncle of famed Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes.
Lessons to Be Learnt
There are many lessons to be learnt from an understanding and appreciation of the history behind Black History Month and the accomplishments of the many people who are celebrated because of it.
Some of the most poignant lessons include acknowledging that:
- What may seem impossible to you may be very possible. If you believe in something with all your heart and all your will, and you are willing to back that claim with persistence and determination, you can achieve the seemingly impossible.
- Knowing where you’re coming from, makes it easier to know where you want to go and where you’re actually going.
- If other people can create history by being the first to do something despite adversity, then why should you let something stop you from creating your own history?
- If your message is very strong and positive, then it will be seen and heard by many people far away.
- No matter how good you are, people may still dislike you. Don’t let it bother you. Just keep on doing you.
- When it’s your time, it’s your time.
- Don’t just complain, do something about your circumstances.
- Let your voice be heard.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
It is important to know your history and the reason behind why things are the way they are. And if you look deep enough into the events of history, you can see the subtle messages for erasing self-doubt and developing self-confidence in yourself.
Black History Month is a wonderful reminder of all the accomplishments that have been made in spite of….
Some may argue that a whole month of celebrations may not be necessary. Others may argue that one month is simply not enough. I argue that there are valuable lessons to be learnt from history and that’s what I have set out to demonstrate in this article dedicated to Black History Month Facts.
Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think.