Black History Month: Then and now

BY: MAYRA CASTRO

dig woodson

Every year throughout the month of February, the achievements of African Americans are honored in a celebration we know as Black History Month. Events throughout the country are being held to commemorate these individuals and their impact on our country.

Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson with the help of Rev. Jesse E. Moorland started the Association for the Study of Negro Life. In 1925 the association announced for the first time the creation of “Negro History Week.” It was not until the following year in February of 1926 that the event was first celebrated, according to an article by International Business Times.

According to The Association for the Study of African American Life and History website, Black History week was meant to correspond with the birthdays of civil rights pioneers Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Woodson received both an overwhelming cultural and institutional response to the event. People celebrated with events, song and dance, Black history clubs rose, teachers demanded materials adequate to teach the subject, and progressive whites, including president Gerald R. Ford, stepped forward to endorse the effort.

Since 1928, each Black History Month or week has had a theme. Last year’s was "Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington, while this year’s theme is “Civil Rights in America,” according to IBT.

In 1976, President Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout history,” according to the Library of Congress website. Ford subsequently issued an official message  of observance , and since then every U.S. president has officially observed  February as Black History Month. Canada and the United Kingdom are among the countries that also participate in a month-long celebration of black history, although the UK celebrates in October.

February is almost over, but there are still plenty of opportunities to celebrate the month that has century-old origins.

Today, some of the major national events celebrating Black History Month include “Weekly Storytime: A Celebration of Black History Month,” hosted by various Barnes & Noble bookstores and photography exhibition “A Day Like No Other: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington” at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

On February 22nd at the Aquarium of the Pacific here in Long Beach, the annual celebration of the African American Festival will feature arts, crafts and storytelling for children, as well as jazz and drum circles to Mardi and hip-hop for the music lovers. STAR Eco Station’s African American Art Festival held in Culver City on the same day will include Singing, dancing, poetry and art of local artists, performers and students.

The California African-American Museum in Los Angeles has dedicated every Sunday of this month to salute African Americans’ achievements by allowing free admission to the museum.