Two years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Thurgood
Marshall (1908-1993) to the U.S. Supreme Court as the first
black justice. Add the great Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet
Tubman and Sojourner Truth to the list, and you have the names
of people who fought actively over the years for justice and
equality for black people. Their legacies stand as a pillar
of strength, inspiration and hope for all generations.
February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate the
many accomplishments, achievements and struggles of Black
Americans. The observance of Black History Month has gradually
evolved into a band of many ethnic groups seeking respect
and a mutual understanding of cultural differences.
Black History Month evolved in 1926 from Negro History Week
by Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson (1875-1950), a Harvard Ph.D.
and founder of the widely respected Journal of Negro History.
Woodson launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring
national attention to the contributions of black people throughout
By establishing the Association for the Study of Afro-American
Life and History, an organizer of Black History Month events,
Woodson trained Black historians in making sure that the true
facts of the contributions of Afro-Americans were properly
and adequately presented in history textbooks. He dedicated
his life to collecting, preserving and publishing these documents,
a task that would later gain a respectable and rightful place
in books worldwide.
Woodson’s organization changed the word negro to Black in
1972 due to pressure stemming from a group of young delegates
at a Cincinnati, Ohio convention. They said the name change
focused on “the new thinking of Black Americans, and indicated
both the new recognition of African background and the black
person’s appreciation of himself as an individual, a citizen
and a contributor to the American scene.”
National recognition expanded the week’s celebration to a
month during the 1976 American bicentennial, as a way to provide
more time for programs, observances and celebrations.
The month of February was selected in deference to Abraham
Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, who were both born in that
month. Douglass (1817-1895), who fought in defense for women’s
rights and equal opportunity, was a national figure in the
crusade to end slavery in America. February is also the birth
month of Barbara Jordan, the first black woman from the south
to serve in the U.S. House of epresentatives.
Since 1926, the Association for the Study of Afro-American
Life and History has established a national theme each year
in celebration of Black History Month. This year’s theme,
“The Souls of Black Folks,” gets its name from the 1903 book
written by William Edward Burghardt DuBois, otherwise known
as W.E.B. DuBois. The theme invites us to reflect on the journeys
and sacrifices endured by black people and also to be appreciative
of one’s own culture and individuality.
In stepping towards the future, the Association for the Study
of Afro-American Life and History dreams of the day when the
sharing and contribution of all Americans will be appreciated,
accepted and understood so that there will be no further need
for any ethnic group to call attention to its contributors.