We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.

—Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Two Milestones

Founded in 1924 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson as Negro History and Literature Week before expanding to a month in 1926, Black History Month honors all of the contributions and achievements of African-Americans. Celebrated during the month of February to memorialize the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, this year holds special significance as it marks the anniversaries of two milestones with the 2013 theme: At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.

With the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect January 1, 1863, we commemorate his decree of freeing the slaves in the confederate states. Although it didn’t end slavery altogether, the proclamation signified a turning point in history. Long considered a major step toward bringing about change for equality, it distinguished Abraham Lincoln as a harbinger of freedom for African-Americans and set the tone for future events anchoring their message in this landmark document.

Freedom March 50th Anniversary

This also marks the 50th anniversary of the
Freedom March to the Lincoln Memorial inWashington,D.C., led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28, 1963, one hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation. With over two-hundred thousand participants, King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the memorial and stirred the nation with his hope of a better world. His inspiring oration defined a new chapter in civil rights, paving the way for future generations as they continue to strive for equality.

Since then, Black History Month has seen its message receive the very esteem it sought so long ago. President Ford delivered the first official presidential address recognizing the importance of its observance. President      Reagan signed and recognized February as Black History Month, with each U.S.president thereafter delivering an official message and proclaiming that year’s theme.

With courageous acts worth emulating and uplifting messages that inspire, Black History Month is truly overflowing with a rich history to explore, honor, and celebrate.

Photo Credit: Bob Gomel, The Historic Washington Mall Freedom March, 1963


Black History Month

Did you know Black History Month got its start in 1926 as a week set aside to honor African-American contributions to American history? Every U.S. president since 1976 has officially designated February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, have followed the United States’ lead and devoted a month to celebrating black history.

Black history, like all history, isn’t just about dates and facts; it’s about people making a difference in each others’ lives.

Take the story of John Price.  Price ran away from a slaveholder in Kentucky when he was sixteen and found his way to Oberlin, Ohio, where he settled among the welcoming townspeople.  Oberlin was a stop on the Underground Railroad, a vast network of people from the South to Canada, who opened their homes and risked their lives to help slaves escape to freedom.  After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, bounty-hunters often roamed the streets of towns like Oberlin, looking for runaway slaves.

One September morning in 1858, when Price was eighteen, he was captured by bounty hunters and held in a hotel in the nearby town of Wellington to wait for a southbound train. When the people of Oberlin heard of Price’s capture, they rushed to Wellington, stormed the hotel, and freed the young man.  Price was hidden at the home of an Oberlin College professor until his safe passage to Canada could be assured.

History doesn’t remember the names of all the people who freed John Price. All we know is that some were farmers and some were businessmen, some were slaves and some were free, and some were black and some were white. But they were all Americans, ordinary people who cared enough to help.

This Black History Month, as we take the time to honor the contributions of African-Americans, let’s remember the spirit of residents of Oberlin, people who looked past color and class distinctions and came together, with kindness and caring, to make the world a better place.