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The History of Black History Month

In the following article Daryl Michael Scott, Professor of History at Howard University and Vice President of Program for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, describes the history of the Black History Month Celebration.

The story of Black History Month begins in Chicago during the late summer of 1915. An alumnus of the University of Chicago with many friends in the city, Carter G. Woodson traveled from Washington, D.C. to participate in a national celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the state of Illinois.  Thousands of African Americans traveled from across the country to see exhibits highlighting the progress their people had made since the destruction of slavery.  Awarded a doctorate in Harvard three years earlier, Woodson joined the other exhibitors with a black history display. Despite being held at the Coliseum, the site of the 1912 Republican convention, an overflow crowd of six to twelve thousand waited outside for their turn to view the exhibits. Inspired by the three-week celebration, Woodson decided to form an organization to promote the scientific study of black life and history before leaving town.  On September 9th, Woodson met at the Wabash YMCA with A. L. Jackson and three others and formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH).

Carter G. Woodson believed that publishing scientific history would transform race relations by dispelling the wide-spread falsehoods about the achievements of Africans and peoples of African descent.  He hoped that others would popularize the findings that he and other black intellectuals would publish in The Journal of Negro History, which he established in 1916.  As early as 1920, Woodson urged black civic organizations to promote the achievements that researchers were uncovering.  A graduate member of Omega Psi Phi, he urged his fraternity brothers to take up the work. In 1924, they responded with the creation of Negro History and Literature Week, which they renamed Negro

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