The origins of Black History Month can be traced back to 1926 in the United States when it started as Negro History Week. It was first proposed by historian Carter G Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. After the first year, Negro History Week was met with an enthusiastic response and prompted an increase in interest among teachers and interest from progressive whites. In the following decades, Negro History Week went from strength to strength. In 1969 Black History Month was first proposed by Black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University. One year later, in 1970 the first Black History Month was celebrated in 1970 by the Kent State. Six years later in 1976, Black History Month was celebrated all over the United States in Educational Institutes, Centres of Black Culture and community centres.
Black History Month was first celebrated in the UK 30 years ago in 1987, it was first organised through the leadership of Ghanaian Akyaaba Addai-Sebo and was celebrated in the UK in London. In the UK Black History Month is every October and in the United States it is in February to coincide with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, February 12th and Frederick Douglass, February 14th, both dates are celebrated by Black Communities.
Black History Month is designed to recognise history, experiences and accomplishments of black people. In schools across the US, students learn about what figures such as Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and many others achieved. The UK version not only recognises the contributions of those from African and Caribbean heritage but those from Asia too.
At the time of Negro History Week’s launch, Woodson contended that the teaching of black history was essential to ensure the physical and intellectual survival of the race within broader society:
“If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated. The American Indian left no continuous record. He did not appreciate the value of tradition; and where is he today? The Hebrew keenly appreciated the value of tradition, as is attested by the Bible itself. In spite of worldwide persecution, therefore, he is a great factor in our civilization.”