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by Farida Dawkins, at 06:40 am, February 01, 2018, Culture, History

[Today in History] Negro History Week (now Black History Month) was launched in 1926

Newspaper cutting on the first Black History Month celebration in 1976 honouring the founder of Negro History Week Carter Woodson

On February 1, 1926, historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History proclaimed the second week of February to be Negro History Week. The range of days was selected due to the birthdays of abolitionist Frederick Douglass on February 12th and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 14th. The birthdays of both figures were celebrated since the 1800s.

Not widely accepted initially, Negro History Week was celebrated in North Carolina, Delaware, West Virginia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. The formation of the holiday was because of the need of preserving and passing on African-American history within society as a whole. By 1929, The Journal of Negro History reported that employees with the State Department of Educations of every state with a substantial amount of Black residents had spread the word about NHW.

In 1970, due to the Black United students and Black educators at Kent State University, the month of February marked the first celebration of Black History Month at the institution. In 1976, President Gerald Ford publicly highlighted Black History Month and encouraged Americans to recognize and study the often overlooked accomplishments of Black Americans.

Meanwhile, January 31st marked the abolishment of slavery via the enactment of the 13th Amendment by Congress. Members of the House voted 121 to 24. This spearheaded the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968; amendments which outlawed discrimination of persons based on religion, race, gender, color, or nationality. The Act also spanned over ceasing racism and to ban the exclusion of African-Americans in schools, at places of employment, retail stores, recreational facilities, and rental institutions.

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