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Black History Month


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.

Early 1900s

In the early 1900s, the most influential black leader in the United States was educator and former slave Booker T. Washington, the principal of Tuskegee Institute. Read a biography on Washington at the Library of Congress African American Pamphlets Home Page. (The Library of Congress is also the home of the African-American Mosaic Exhibition).

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 Books Online.




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.

1940s

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.

1960s

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:

  • Surfing the Net with Kids
    Offers kid-friendly links to sites about Black History Month.

  • AT&T's Black History
    AT&T's 28 Days Black History Month campaign focuses on celebrating past history makers and a look at new innovators.




   --- A.H.

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