The month of February commemorates Black History and is also referred to as African American History Month. Many may wonder “why do we celebrate it and why is it important?”
According to History.com, Black History Month originated from an event known as Negro History Week. In 1915, Historian Carter G. Woodson and Minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). The organization started with the goals of analyzing the achievements of and advancing Black Americans and those of African heritage.
In 1926, the ASNLH sponsored the first Negro History week and chose the second week of February as it coincided with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, and Frederick Douglass’ birthday on February 14. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 which declared freedom to slaves within the Confederacy. Douglass was a leader in the abolitionist movement and fought for the end of slavery before and during the Civil War. It was not until the year 1976 that Black History month became official. President Gerald Ford urged society to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Black History is not only celebrated in the United States, but all over the world. The United Kingdom adopted the celebration in October of 1987. Germany began celebrating Black History in the year 1990, Canada in 1995, and the Republic of Ireland in 2010, according to History.com.
Baker Ripley, a nationally recognized non-profit organization based in Texas, spoke of the importance of Black History Month. “Learning about other cultures helps us understand how much we’re really alike. We remove barriers and begin to authentically connect with one another,” Ripley said last February.
There are numerous resources available to those who want to explore their own culture or learn of other’s cultures. The Upshur County Public Library is a great source of information, with many books devoted to the topic, including books for younger children. West Virginia owes tribute to many African Americans, including native Katherine Johnson. Johnson was a mathematician who performed important work at NASA.
For more on prominent African American West Virginians, refer to The Record Delta’s Thursday, February 3 article by Greg Neuharth.