The origins of Black History Month can be traced back to the creation of the
Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, founded by historian and scholar Dr. Carter
G. Woodson in 1915. In 1926, he proposed the creation of a "Negro History
Week" to honor the history and contributions of African-Americans. Woodson
chose the second week of February to pay tribute to the birthdays of two
Americans that dramatically affected the lives of African Americans: Abraham
Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14). In 1976, the
week-long observance officially became Black History Month.
Over the course of the past century, African-Americans have made significant
contributions to our nation in education, business, politics, the arts,
technology, sports and beyond. Below, we explore a century of progress and point out where you
can learn more about African-American history on the Web.
Although many African-Americans agreed with Washington's philosophy that
blacks should strive for economic advancement before political and social
equality, some did not. One of Washington's chief critics was sociologist and
historian W.E.B. Du Bois of Atlanta University. The full text of Du Bois's
famous 1903 work "The Souls of Black Folk" is available at Bartleby's Great
The National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People (NAACP) was formed in 1909. The organization
relied on education, legal action, protests and voter participation to fight
for racial equality. In 1917, Jamaican-born journalist and activist
Marcus Garvey brought the Universal Negro Improvement and Conservation
Association and African Communities League, an
organization he formed in Jamaica in 1914, to Harlem, a black community in
New York City. One of the organization's goals was to create a new homeland in
Africa for African-Americans.
During World War II, nearly a million blacks served in the U.S.
Armed forces, mostly in segregated units. The History Place offers a
special exhibit with photos of African-Americans and their
contributions during the war. You can also find out more about the 366th
Infantry Regiment, an all-black unit that toured North Africa and Italy
during the war at the 366th Infantry Regiment Home Page.
The 1940s also brought change for African-American athletes in professional
sports. In 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American major
league baseball player. For an online tour of Robinson's life and
contributions, check out the Jackie Robinson Educational Tour Directory. The Library of Congress
also has an excellent site, Jackie Robinson and Other Baseball Highlights, which includes a timeline
focusing on the color line that segregated baseball for so many years.
In the two decades following World War II, a new movement began among
African-Americans seeking equal rights. This period became known as the Civil Rights Movement.
PBS has developed a timeline devoted to The Civil Rights
Movement. The National Civil Rights Museum
offers an interactive tour highlighting some of the museum's permanent exhibits.
One of the greatest leaders of nonviolent protests during this time was
Martin Luther King, Jr. The Seattle Times offers a guide to his life with
background information, a study guide, interactive quiz and a photo tour of
the civil rights movement. Stanford University's Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project is a comprehensive source of primary and secondary works about
King and the movement.
Another movement of the period was Black Nationalism, which promoted the
ideas of the Black Panther Party and the Black Muslims. One of the most
eloquent speakers for the Black Muslims during the 1950s and 1960s was
Malcolm X. Columbia University has put together a multimedia version of his autobiography.offers a
biography of Malcolm X and related links to resources on black nationalism.
Like King, Malcolm X was assassinated before his work was complete. For an
interesting look at actual documents chronicling the death of Malcolm X,
visit the Smoking Gun's Malcolm X Files.
Additional Black History Month Resources
For more information on African-American history and Black History Month,
check out these sites:
AT&T's Black History
2012 marks AT&T's fourth year of its 28 Days Black History Month campaign, which focuses on celebrating past history makers and a look at new innovators through a free exclusive speaker series.