Black History Month 2020By Urban League of HR
February marks Black History Month. We pause and reflect and pay tribute to the significant achievements by African Americans and recognize how their contributions help to shape the history of America. But how did this celebration come to be?
The recognized Father of Black History Month is Dr. Carter G. Woodson who was born in 1875 near New Canton, VA. He was the son of former slaves. Woodson spent his childhood working in coal mines and quarries. In 1907, he obtained his BA degree from the University of Chicago. In 1912, he received his PhD from Harvard University. He was the only African American born to former slave parents to receive a PhD in history and he was the second to receive a PhD in history from Harvard. The first was W.E.B. Dubois. During his study of history at Harvard, Woodson witnessed how black people were underrepresented in the books and conversations that shaped the study of American history.
He believed “the achievements of the Negro properly set forth will crown him as a factor in early human progress and a maker of modern civilization.”
Woodson’s frustration of how history books did not acknowledge and chronicle the contributions of African Americans served to be a catalyst for change. Woodson assumed the challenge of writing African Americans into the nation’s history. To do this, he established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. He also founded the Journal of Negro History in 1915. In 1926, Woodson proposed and launched the annual February observance of “Negro History Week.” In 1976, Negro History Week expanded into Black History Month.
As he indicated in his book “The Negro in Our History,” it was not to celebrate negro history but the negro in all history, our history!
The Urban League of Hampton Roads joins everyone in celebrating the many and varied contributions of African Americans. The month-long tribute immediately follows our annual MLK Leadership Breakfast held just a few weeks ago. There were 750 attendees who honored the life and legacy of Dr. King and several community leaders who exemplify Dr. King’s call to service. And, the crowd was captivated by the inspirational call to action and compassion from a modern day African American leader, Dr. Janice Underwood, inaugural Chief of Diversity for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Join us as we pause and reflect on the great contributions of so many African Americans and we encourage you to engage in the many local celebrations throughout February.
Happy Black History Month!
President and CEO of the Urban League of Hampton Roads