Originating in the United States, Black History Month is a month-long celebration of black history, heritage, and culture.
Now officially recognized by the United States, Canada, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Ireland, the month began to commemorate important people and events in the history of the African diaspora.
From 1926 the historian and “father of black history” Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History declared the second week of February to be “Negro History Week”.
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The date coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, which have been celebrated by black communities since the late 19th century.
It met with fierce opposition from some racist groups, but its popularity grew every year and within decades a number of mayors endorsed it as a public holiday.
In 1970, the first Black History Month was celebrated after black educators and students at Kent State University proposed the idea.
Six years later, US President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month and said Americans should:
“Take this opportunity to honor the all-too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in all areas of our history.”
Why is Black History Month in October?
The UK celebrations take place in October instead of February as historians argue that black British history has a different meaning than US history.
First held in Great Britain in 1987, the 150th anniversary of the emancipation of the Caribbean, it celebrated the unique experiences of the country’s extensive African-Caribbean population.
Most schools still teach a traditional curriculum that focuses on the achievement of predominantly white personalities.
There is increasing demand to make this an integral part of the national curriculum and not just limit it to one month.