February 1 marks the beginning of Black History Month; a time of remembrance for African-American history and culture that has shaped American society.
Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson is known as the Father of Black History month. He founded Negro History Week in 1926, which later turned into a month. Woodson helped Americans and African-Americans realize the importance of African-American history, a subject that did not receive much attention at the time.
Woodson was born on December 19, 1875 in Virginia to former slaves. Like many Black families at the time, his was poor. He taught himself common school subjects until he first began school at the age of 20. When he did get to high school he was able to graduate in two years.
Dr. Woodson was an educator and spent time at Howard University as Dean of the School of Liberal Arts. He earned a doctorate of history from Harvard University in 1912 and he mastered several languages, while studying in Asia and Europe,
In 1915, Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in Chicago, now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) located in Washington.
The book, The Negro in Our History, by Dr. Woodson, has sold more than 90,000 copies and is in its 11th edition. When Woodson died on April 3, 1950, he was working on a six volume Encyclopedia Africana that was never completed.
Many African-Americans wonder why February, the shortest month of the year, was designated as Black History Month. Woodson chose February in honor of Fredrick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln who were both born in February. Also the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, was signed in January, but many slaves did not know about this until February.
The Association of the Study of African American Life and History continues to celebrate Woodson’s legacy of Black History Month. The theme for 2006 is “Celebrating Community: A Tribute to Black Fraternal, Social, and Civic Institutions.”
The annual Black History Month Luncheon will be on Feb. 25 at Howard University and the keynote speaker will be Lonnie Bunch, the Director of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, slated to open in 2013.