The Establishment of Black History Month


Dr. Carter G. Woodson
was a scholar whose dedication to celebrating the historic contributions of Black people led to the establishment of Black History Month, marked every February since 1976. Woodson fervently believed that Black people should be proud of their heritage and all Americans should understand the largely overlooked achievements of Black Americans.

Black History Moments (February)

Greensboro Four
The Greensboro Four were four young Black men who staged the first sit-in at Greensboro: Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Joseph McNeil. All four were students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College.

They were influenced by the nonviolent protest techniques practiced by Mohandas Gandhi, as well as the Freedom Rides organized by the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) in 1947, in which interracial activists rode across the South in buses to test a recent Supreme Court decision banning segregation in interstate bus travel.

The Greensboro Four, as they became known, had also been spurred to action by the brutal murder in 1955 of a young Black boy, Emmett Till, who had allegedly whistled at a white woman in a Mississippi store.

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– In 1901, Langston Hughes is born. James Mercer Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri to parents Carrie M. Langston and James N. Hughes.

– In 1839 Inventor Edmond Berger patented the spark plug.

– In 1862 District of Columbia abolishes slavery

– In 1914 artist William Ellisworth was born in Washington, N.C.

– In 1948 President Truman sent Congress an Anti-Lynching Message urging adoption of a civil rights program, including a fair employment practices commission and anti-lynching and anti-poll tax measures.

– In 1962 Seven whites and four blacks were arrested after all-night sit-in at Englewood, N.J., city hall. Four Black mothers arrested after sit-in at Chicago elementary school. Mothers later received suspended $50 fines.

– On February 2, 2009, the United States Senate confirmed Eric Holder as the first African American Attorney General in the United States by a vote in the affirmative of 75-21.

– In 2013, the first African American female congresswoman from Illinois, Cardiss Collins died in Arlington, Virginia at age 81.   Collins was elected in a special election on June 5, 1973 to replace her husband, Congressman George Collins who died in a plane crash aboard United Airlines Flight 553 on December 8, 1972.

– “The First Lady of Civil Rights”, Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was born on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama.  Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. When Rosa Parks kept her seat on that bus, she stood up for the dignity and civil rights of every African American in the United States.

– One of America’s greatest baseball players, Henry Louis “Hank Aaron” was born February 5, 1934 in Mobile,  Alabama. The baseball Hall of Famer held the Major League Baseball record 33 years with 755 career home runs.

– In 1945 Bob Marley, Jamaican reggae star is born.

–  Legendary tennis player, Arthur Ashe died on February 6, 1993 in New York City, New York at age 49. He is believed to have become HIV positive from a blood transfusion during heart surgery. He worked to educate people about AIDS after publicly disclosing his illness and died of AIDS related pneumonia. Ashe became the first African American to win the US Open Tennis Championship on September 9,

–  Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who is considered a pioneer in the study of African-American history and is known as “The Father of Black History,” designated the second week of February as Negro History Week in 1926. In 1976, Negro History Week would be expanded to the entire month of February, or Black History Month.

Woodson, a son of former slaves who eventually earned a PhD from Harvard, chose the second week of February as it marked the birthday of abolitionist Frederick Douglass (Feb. 14) and President Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12), who signed the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery in the southern states.

Woodson once said, “History shows that it does not matter who is in power or what revolutionary forces take over the government, those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they had in the beginning.”

– Also on this day in 1965, Emmy and Grammy Award-winning comedian, recording artist and actor Chris Rock was born in Andrews, South Carolina. His provocative comedic style would gain acclaim and even criticism for its sharp commentary on race relations, politics, family and music.

– Oprah Winfrey becomes the first African American woman to host a nationally syndicated talk show.

– Diminutive actor Gary Coleman was born in Zion, Illinois. Despite a childhood of medical troubles, Coleman went on to become a television star in numerous situation comedies.

– In 1995, NASA astronaut Bernard Harris becomes the first Black man to walk in space. His mission contributes to a burgeoning collaboration between the United States and Russia in space exploration.

Bernard Harris stepped out of the space shuttle Discovery in orbit on February 9, 1995. He first embarked on the unlikely journey toward his historic spacewalk as a child, inspired by stargazing in his home state of Texas. Harris described his determination to become an astronaut as a “big leap of faith” at a time when the Apollo 11 moon landing shared headlines with the struggle for civil rights. “The main challenge was the color of my skin.”

Harris earned his medical degree and completed a residency at the Mayo Clinic before joining NASA as a flight surgeon. As an M.D. at NASA, Harris researched how human bone reacts to space flight, and he designed medical devices to help astronauts’ bodies adapt. In 1990, NASA selected him as part of its 13th astronaut class. In his career…

– BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – The Civil Rights Act of 1964 passes through the House of Representatives, and Andrew Brimmer becomes the first African-American to serve on the Federal Reserve Board.

– On this day in 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed the U.S. House of Representatives. A few months later, on July 2nd, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson would officially sign it into law.

– On this day in 1966, Andrew Brimmer was appointed to the Federal Reserve Board. He was the first African-America governor of the Federal Reserve System.

– On this day in 1907, Grace Towns Hamilton was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Hamilton would go on to become the African-American member of the Georgia state legislature.

– On this day in 1927, Leontyne Price was born in Laurel, Mississippi. Price became an internationally acclaimed opera singer, who was one of the first African-Americans to become a leading artist at the Metropolitan Opera.

– On this day in 1937, singer Roberta Flack was born in Asheville, North Carolina. Flack would go on to record #1 songs such as “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and “Where Is the Love”. Her song”The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” won the 1973 Grammy Record of the Year. The following year, her song, “Killing Me Softly with His Song”, won Record of the Year. Flack is one of only two artist to win that award in consecutive years.

1990, African National Congress leader and future South African President Nelson Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison after being held for 27 years. In a speech given on the same day of his release, Mandela said “In conclusion I wish to quote my own words during my trial in 1964. They are true today as they were then: I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

America’s largest and oldest civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)  was founded on February 12, 1909 in response to a race riot in Springfield, Illinois.  Because of the horrific acts that were being done against African Americans, a little over 50 white liberals and 7 African Americans met to discuss the racial crisis. Out of this meeting came the existence of the NAACP.  Some of the African Americans in attendance were W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell.  

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1923: The First Black Professional Basketball Team Is Organized.

The Renaissance (or the New York Rens), the nation’s first Black professional basketball team, was formed by Robert “Bob” Douglas (pictured in the middle of the top row in this photo). The team was named after the famed Renaissance Ballroom and Casino in Harlem, N.Y.C., and became the first Black-owned professional team before winning the inaugural World Championship of Professional Basketball in 1939.

The team’s original lineup included Clarence “Fats” Jenkins, James “Pappy” Ricks, Frank “Strangler” Forbes and Leon Monde.

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– In 1818 Frederick Douglass’ Birthday celebrated.

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– In 2011, Maya Angelou awared the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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– In 1970, Joe Frazier becomes World Champion.

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– On this day in 1940, legendary singer Smokey Robinson was born.

– On this day in 1942, the Tuskegee Airmen were initiated.

– On this day in 1992, director John Singleton became the first black nominated for the Academy Award for best director and best screenplay for “Boyz N The Hood.”

– On this day in 2002, Vonetta Flowers became the first black gold medalist in the Winter Olympics game, for the two person bobsled event.