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Black History Month: Home

Black History Month

Image of Black icons, politicians, musicians. Text Reads Celebrating Black History Month @ the OCC Library

February is the month dedicated annually to Black History.   The following excerpt is a brief history of Black History Month: 

"Prominent African American activist Carter Godwin Woodson (1875–1950)...was the first to suggest setting aside an annual period to recognize the experiences of African Americans. In 1926, Woodson and the  Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) designated the second week in February as National Negro Week; they chose the week because it contains the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two major figures in African American history. From the beginning, Woodson made it clear that he intended Negro History Week to serve as a focal point for “celebrating” the role of African Americans in American history, rather than for airing grievances regarding the continued discrimination and racism suffered by African Americans. Woodson wrote in one of his annual bulletins regarding the event, 'If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world.' During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, some African American leaders spoke out against National Negro Week, calling it a relatively superficial gesture to address the ongoing prejudice and inequality present in the educational system. During the United States Bicentennial, in 1976, the ASALH expanded Black History Week—as it was renamed in 1972—into a month-long annual observance. ...In 1986, the United States Congress passed, and President Ronald Reagan signed, Public Law 99-244, which formally established Black History Month as a federally designated observance. ... Since 1996, each US president has had the duty of issuing a public announcement to determine a theme for that year’s Black History Month celebration, meant to convey a general focus on some specific area within the theme of African American achievement. Official Black History Month themes in the twenty-first century have included “Celebrating Community: A Tribute to Black Fraternal, Social, and Civic Institutions” (2006) and “African Americans and the Civil War” (2011). The 2020 theme for Black History Month was “African Americans and the Vote,” which commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment. Criticism of Black History Month has become more common in popular culture, though few prominent African American leaders and scholars have spoken out against the practice. Modern criticisms of Black History Month have typically fallen into two general categories: the belief that African American history is too significant to the nation to be properly addressed in only a month-long period, and the belief that the separation of African American history from the rest of American history serves to intensify divisions between racial groups rather than to help end racism.  As of 2020, many commentators felt that Black History Month, while first and foremost continuing to emphasize African American history, remained relevant in that it could also serve as a time for Americans to reflect on learning from the past and how the effects of that time were still present in American society, including in the forms of racist ideology and the persistent suppression of votes for marginalized groups."

Excerpt from: Issitt, M. (2020). Black History Month: Overview. Points of View: Black History Month, 1–3.

Recommended Black History Month Resources

For Black History Month, we are highlighting books and films on Black history and notable Black people available through the OCC Library on Instagram.  The library's Instagram handle is @occ_library or can be found at https://www.instagram.com/occ_library/.  These are the items highlighted this month:

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO