It all started in 1926, when Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week as a way to focus attention on Black contributions to the world. It was timed in February to coincide with President Abraham Lincoln's and Frederick Douglass's birthdays as both men were symbols of freedom. Fifty years later the event was expanded, and Black History Month was officially designated in 1976 by President Gerald R. Ford, where he told Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history." This annual monthly event spotlights the contributions of African Americans and promotes the teaching of Black History. Every year, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History chooses a theme for Black History Month; this year's theme is "Black Resistance."
Why is Black History Month important today? Although America represents values of independence, justice, and freedom, African Americans have been systematically restricted from attaining these ideals. Historic policies rooted in racism, such as segregation, legally discriminated against Black Americans. By establishing rules that prevented Black people from claiming their full rights, America denied full citizenship to a group of people while promising life and liberty for all.
However, generations of Black Americans have defied systematic oppression through moments of protest, civil disobedience, and personal achievement. From Frederick Douglass' escape from slavery to Kamala Harris' appointment as the first African American Vice President, these acts of resistance challenge systematic inequalities and remove barriers to full citizenship. Black History Month highlights these acts of resistance to demonstrate the true price of equality. By celebrating, learning, and teaching about "Black resistance" this Black History Month, we honor Black people's contributions to advancing American democracy.
To celebrate Black History Month, the City is hosting a book giveaway! City of College Park residents can claim free copies (of up to three books) that educate and inform on Dr. King's life and his work toward Civil Rights. Learn more here.