Every February, the U.S. celebrates Black History Month — a time when we reflect on the milestones and contributions that Black people have contributed, often in the face of systemic discrimination. Read on to learn more about this special month including when it started and essential Black history facts to know.
Before Black History Month, there was Negro History Week. This week was first established in the U.S. in 1926. Black historian Carter G. Woodson founded the week, believing it was important to celebrate the history and progress of Black Americans. The month of February was chosen to pay homage to important figures in Black civil rights, including Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, who were both born in February. In 1976, the commemoration became Black History Month when it was recognized by former U.S. President Gerald R. Ford and has been honored by every sitting president since.
While we should strive to recognize and honor Black history all year long, Black History Month provides the U.S. with a special time to celebrate the cultural heritage, achievements and hardships that are an unforgettable part of our history. Below is a list of key Black historical figures who should be celebrated for their important contributions to civil rights and beyond.
John Lewis: A prominent civil rights leader and a congressman representing Georgia until his passing in 2020, Lewis served alongside Dr. King and participated in monumental civil rights protests, including the Freedom Rides to end segregation at bus terminals and the famous March on Washington in 1963.