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
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