Black History Month has a history President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting on African American History Month in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. From left are, Omarosa Manigault, Trump, Housing and Urban Development Secretary-designate Ben Carson, and Lynne Patton. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Black History Month has a history
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Like his predecessors, President Donald Trump commemorated Black History Month with an official proclamation, a gala and receptions at the White House to celebrate the contributions of the United States' black citizens.
 
"I'm proud to honor this heritage and will be honoring it more and more," Trump said Jan. 31 as he surrounded himself with African-American supporters and government officials invited to the White House for a listening session.
 
Black History Month is considered one of the nation's oldest organized history celebrations, and has been recognized by U.S. presidents for decades through proclamations and celebrations.
 
Here is some information about the history of Black History Month.
 
It was Carter G. Woodson, a founder of the Association for the Study of African American History, who first came up with the idea of the celebration that became Black History Month. Woodson, the son of recently freed Virginia slaves, who went on to earn a Ph.D. in history from Harvard, originally came up with the idea of Negro History Week to encourage black Americans to become more interested in their own history and heritage. Woodson worried that black children were not being taught about their ancestors' achievements in American schools in the early 1900s.
 
"If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated," Woodson said.
 
Woodson chose February for Negro History Week because it had the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Lincoln was born on Feb. 12, and Douglass, a former slave who did not know his exact birthday, celebrated his on Feb. 14.
 
Daryl Michael Scott, a Howard University history professor and former ASAAH president, said Woodson chose that week because black Americans were already celebrating Lincoln's and Douglass's birthdays. With the help of black newspapers, he promoted that week as a time to focus on African-American history as part of the celebrations that were already ongoing.
 
The first Negro History Week was announced in February 1926.
 
"This was a community effort spearheaded by Woodson that built on tradition, and built on black institutional life and structures to create a new celebration that was a week long, and it took off like a rocket," Scott said.
 
Negro History Week was wildly successful, but Woodson felt it needed more.
 
Woodson's original idea for Negro History Week was for it to be a time for student showcases of the African-American history they learned the rest of the year, not as the only week black history would be discussed, Scott said. Woodson later advocated starting a Negro History Year, saying that during a school year "a subject that receives attention one week out of 36 will not mean much to anyone."
 
Individually several places, including West Virginia in the 1940s and Chicago in the 1960s, expanded the celebration into Negro History Month. The civil rights and Black Power movement advocated for an official shift from Black History Week to Black History Month, Scott said, and, in 1976, on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Negro History Week, the Association for the Study of African American History made the shift to Black History Month.
 
Every president since Gerald R. Ford has issued a statement honoring the spirit of Black History Month.
 
Ford first honored Black History Week in 1975, calling the recognition "most appropriate," as the country developed "a healthy awareness on the part of all of us of achievements that have too long been obscured and unsung." The next year, in 1976, Ford issued the first Black History Month commemoration, saying with the celebration "we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."
 
President Jimmy Carter added in 1978 that the celebration "provides for all Americans a chance to rejoice and express pride in a heritage that adds so much to our way of life." President Ronald Reagan said in 1981 that "understanding the history of black Americans is a key to understanding the strength of our nation."
 
Trump issued a proclamation Feb. 2, declaring February as National African American History Month. The text names Katherine Johnson, a mathematician and one of three black women whose roles in the space race were featured in the recent film "Hidden Figures."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why does Black History Month have a history?
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COMMENTS (16)
  • gabrielleb-pla
    2/20/2017 - 12:31 p.m.

    Black History Month actually started in 1926 as Black History Week. Carter G. Woodson felt that African American children were not learning enough about their heritage and what great things they have done, so he came up with Black History Week. This week took off and was celebrated widely, but Woodson felt that focusing for only one week would not provide the education and celebration he felt was needed, so he made it Black History Month. This month is still celebrated today

    This article relates to civic engagement because the foundation of Black History Month is based on education and participation in culture and education. To this day, people still celebrate, advocate for equal rights and no discrimination, and learn about African American history.

  • rachelt-pla
    2/21/2017 - 12:05 a.m.

    On February 2, 2017, President Donald Trump continued with the annual traditional of celebrating Black History Month at the White House. Black History Month is considered one of the nation's oldest organized history celebrations. The concept of celebrating the history of the blacks, all started with Carter G. Woodson, the founder of the Association for the Study of African American History. He wanted black Americans to become more interested in their own history and heritage. Black history month started off with just being a week of celebration, during the week of Lincoln's and Douglass's birthdays (Americans were already celebrating these events). It was not until 1976 that the Association for the Study of African Americans made the change to Black History Month. In regards to civic engagement, I feel that all citizens should understand the history of the blacks, and everything they have done within this country, and Black History Month gives teachers the perfect opportunity to teach and celebrate these events.

  • jacksona-pla
    2/21/2017 - 08:41 a.m.

    Black History Month started as Black History Week. The idea was first had by Carter G. Woodson, the son of a slave and a history Ph.D. He originally intended the week to be an exposition for what students across the country had learned about black history. It then morphed into the Black History Month that we still celebrate today. Black History Month is an important civic holiday because it allows us an opportunity to honor a race that has been terribly wronged in the past.

  • avad-pla
    2/21/2017 - 09:37 a.m.

    Carter G. Woodson, son of a former slave and a founder of the Association for the Study of African American History, first came up with the idea of Black History Month. His reasoning behind this was he believed children were not receiving adequate teaching about their ancestors in school. Originally, Woodson created Negro History Week, first announced in February 1926, to promote black Americans to learn about their own history. The month February was chosen because it holds the birthdays of both President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, a former slave. Woodson wanted Negro History Week to be focused on the African American history students had learned throughout the entire year, not to be the only week black history would be discussed. On the 50th anniversary of Negro History Week, Association for the Study of African American History changed the week into Black History Month. Each president, including Donald Trump, since Gerald R. Ford has made statement honoring and praising Black History Month. I think it is very important to study the history of all cultures as the world would not be what it is today without the influences of various cultures. To become truly civically engaged, one has to recognize all types of people and their background, not just their own.

  • noahr-ste
    2/22/2017 - 10:47 a.m.

    It is to show how a group of people stood up against all odds to get the freedom and rights they thought they deserved. Some off the greatest men in history are African Americans and that is because what they did for the greater of the country.

  • kaileew-ste
    2/24/2017 - 01:26 p.m.

    Donald Trump had a gala at the White House for black history month. Black history month is considered one of the Nation's oldest history months. It is important that the president is celebrating this month.

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