The Story Behind Black History Month

With Black History Month coming to an end, many people are reflecting on the history of this significant month, but not everyone knows how it came into fruition.

Half a century after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, historian and writer, Carter G. Woodson and civil rights minister, Jesse E. Moorland, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, or what is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

Shortly after Woodson and Moorland founded this association, it gave birth to “Negro History Week,” a week created to annually celebrate the achievements and recognize the role that African-American history played in American history.

Unbeknownst to many, the recognition of African-American achievements had been celebrated in the second week of February, so that it would overlap with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass, and President Abraham Lincoln.

By the late 1960s, the historical week was transformed into what has now become internationally known as Black History Month. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month.

But although February has become the heart of African-American pride, black history still isn’t being promoted, despite many academic organizations that were created to continue on the legacy of Woodson’s and Moorland’s brainchild.

And on the campus of IUPUI, it’s no exception.

“As far as representation, I haven’t really seen much of anything,” Sarah Shaw, an IUPUI communication studies major, said. “I saw signs when I was coming into the library, but that’s about the extent of what I saw.”

IUPUI’s Multicultural Center holds Black History events throughout February, but those events are not well promoted on campus.

“This is probably the time of year where, even though I am proud 365 days of the year of my heritage and everything that I stand for, this is probably the proudest time,” Stephanie Rice, a former member of the National Organization of the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE), said.

Rice continued, “It means, for at least 28 to 29 days, our story gets told. It gets told beyond the surface of ‘I Have a Dream,’ Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman. It’s told for the voices that have been ignored, and never said anything. And for the voices that have been there, but have always been overshadowed.

“This is a time that we get a chance as people, and as a nation, to celebrate diversity and our contributions that we take for granted today.”

Sidney Harris, a sociology major at Indiana University  added, “It’s a time where the collective magic of Black folks is allowed to be shown in a world that does not want to see it, and usually flat out refuses to see it. It’s a time of recognition and pride.”

And as Black History Month continues, the words of Carter G. Woodson feel more important than ever.

“If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”

The ASALH  host its 91st Black History Luncheon today in Washington, D.C.

The topic and theme of 2017 is the “Crisis in Black Education.”


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