This guide provides links to both library resources and internet sites related to African American history in general and African American History Month specifically.
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African American History Month, acknowledged annually in February, celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of that Americans of African descent have made to American history. Besides offering recognition for African Americans, African American History Month provides educators, media, and others to develop curricula and materials on the subject.
Carter Godwin Woodson (1875–1950), an African American historian, had first argued to set an annual period to recognize the experiences of African Americans. He also formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASLAH), and published an accompanying journal. Woodson earned a PhD in history from Harvard University, the second African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard.
He initially found little traction for his proposal besides some fellow academics, however, Julius Rosenwald, a Jewish businessman and philanthropist provided economic and practical support. Woodson’s initiatives attracted the attention of Julius Rosenwald, a Jewish businessman and philanthropist from Springfield, Illinois. He paid $100 a quarter to the organization, allowing Woodson to expand on his efforts.
In 1926, Woodson and the ASALH chose the second week of February as National Negro Week in recognition of the birthdates of both Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. He intended for the week to be a celebration of African Americans in American history rather than a listing of injustices that the United States continued to inflict on Black Americans.
In the 1950's and 60's, at the height of the Civil Rights movement, some African American leaders argued that National Negro Week offered little in the fight against the indignities and inequalities that Black Americans faced daily. In 1976, ASLAH expanded Black History Week, as it had been known since 1972, into a month long annual observance.
In 1986, the United States Congress passed, with President Ronald Reagan's signature, Public Law 99-244, formally establishing Black History Month as a federally designated observance.
Currently, Black History Month celebrations are held in nearly every city and state in the United States. Public and private schools, libraries, governments, businesses present programs designed the highlight African American history and culture. Montgomery County Community College also participates in the observations through a variety of programs.