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Black History Month: The History of Black History Month

About this Daily Classroom Specials: This DCS was written by Lottie Simms, teacher at Miami Lakes Middle School (Miami, FL) and a former Teachers Network web mentor.

Who Started Black History Month?

"If a race has no history; if 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 quote above comes from the man who earned the title "Father of Negro History." Born in New Canton, Virginia, on December 19, 1875 to former slaves, this eldest of nine children was forced to work at an early age to help his parents make ends meet. This meant that he would not attend school until the age of 20. Self-educated, he entered Douglass High School in West Virginia at the age of 20 and attended part-time until 1896. He later attended Berea College in Kentucky and received his bachelor's degree in 1903. After teaching for several years, in West Virginia, the Philippines, and traveling abroad to Europe, Asia and Africa, he returned to the US where he finished his studies and earned a B.A. (1902) and M.A. (1908) degree, from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. (1912) in history from Harvard.

As an educator, activist, and historiographer, he greatly influenced the black experience and ultimately the experiences of all Americans. In 1915 he organized the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The purpose of the organization was the collection of sociologist and historical data on the Negro, the study of people of African blood, the publishing of books in the field, and the promotion of harmony between the races by acquainting one with the other.

On February 7, 1926, he organized Negro History Week, which expanded in the 1960s to Black History Month. This man's main interest was to see that African-American youngsters, their parents and teachers, grow up with an appreciation of their own possibilities by showing them the contributions blacks made to our nation, world and history. Why did he choose February for Black History Month? He felt recognition should take place during the month of the birthdays of two men who contributed greatly to the history of Blacks in America-Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Who is this "Father of Negro History?"

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