Celebrating Black History Month: African Americans and the Arts
February is a month that holds profound significance in the United States and other parts of the world—it’s Black History Month. This annual observance is a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history, celebrating their achievements, and acknowledging their struggles and triumphs. But what is Black History Month, and how did it begin? When is it celebrated, and what makes the 2024 theme, “African Americans and the Arts,” so compelling?
Black History Month is a period dedicated to the remembrance and celebration of the contributions that African Americans have made to American history in their struggle for freedom and equality. It encompasses all aspects of African Americans’ achievements—from civil rights to the arts and beyond.
The roots of Black History Month can be traced back to 1926, when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) sponsored a national Negro History week. They chose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two key figures in the history of African Americans. The week was expanded to a full month in 1976, when President Gerald Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
In the United States, Black History Month is celebrated throughout the month of February. It’s also observed in other countries around the globe, including Canada in February and the United Kingdom in October, each striving to highlight the contributions and history of African descendants.