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Black History Month: Black History Month

The purpose of this guide to celebrate and recognize Black History Month

Black History Month

Carter G, WoodsonBlack History Month 2022

Black History Month is known to many as a monthlong commemoration of African American history and achievement that takes place each February in the United States.

Before Black History Month, there was Negro History Week that was organized by Carter G, Woodson and members of his Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in February 1926. Negro History Week grew in popularity, with American cities initiating their own celebrations of Black achievements and with teachers—particularly in schools with a large percentage of African American students—using class time to discuss contributions to history made by notable African Americans. The civil rights movement also contributed to its popularity. Negro History Week was expanded to become Black History Month in 1976, with U.S. Pres. Gerald Ford urging Americans to participate in its observance.

Black History Month is widely known to be celebrated with a range of events at public schools, universities, and museums as well as within individual communities across the country. 

Eunice Hunton Carter

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin

Josephine Saint Pierre Ruffin (1842-1924) 

Josephine was active in a number of social causes including woman suffrage and the advancement of black women. along with her dauther she organized the Woman's Era Club, a civic association for African American women and with other civic groups eventually formed the National Association of Colored Women and helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Boston chapter. For more information see links below:

The Black Panther Party

The Black Panther Party (1966 - 1980)

Founded by Merritt Junior College students, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seals in 1966 in Oakland, CA the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense's original purpose was to patrol African American neighborhoods to protect residents from acts of police brutality. It later shortened it's name to the Black Panther Party. It was a revolutionary organization with an ideology of Black nationalism, socialism, and armed self-defense, and was against police brutality.  From the outset, the Black Panther Party outlined a Ten Point Program.

The Black Panther Party was also involved in many community projects as part of their organization. These projects included community outreach, like the breakfast program, education, and health programs. For more information, see links below:

(Photo: Black Panther Party national chairman Bobby Seale (left) and defense minister Huey P. Newton. AP)

Marcus Garvey

Marcus Garvey (1887 - 1940)

A charismatic Black leader who organized the first important American Black Nationalist Movement (1919-26), based in New York City's Harlem. He was a prominent figure in the early 20th century and advocated the motto, "Back to Africa."  He was internationally renowned as one of the luminary Pan-Africanists of the 20th century.

The roots of Black Nationalism can be traced back to Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association which was dedicated to racial pride, economic self-sufficiency and the formation of an independent Black nation in Africa. Garvey promoted the unity and empowerment of people of African descent worldwide, encouraging a return to Africa to build a strong, independent black nation. He was internationally renowned as one of the luminary Pan-Africanists of the 20th century. For more information from Britannica Academic, see below:

Below is an episode from National Public Radio's podcast, Code Switch.  Well worth listening to for a fascinating story of a man seeking to create an independent Black nation in Africa.

The Pan-African flag, (also called the Marcus Garvey, UNIA, Afro-American or Black Liberation flag,) was designed to represent people of the African Diaspora, and, as one scholar put it, to symbolize "black freedom, simple."

The banner, with its horizontal red, black and green stripes, was adopted by the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) at a conference in New York City in 1920. For several years leading up to that point, Marcus Garvey, the UNIA's leader, talked about the need for a black liberation flag. Robert Hill, a historian and Marcus Garvey scholar, says that Garvey thought of a flag as necessary symbol of political maturity.

The Pan-African flag's colors each had symbolic meaning. Red stood for blood — both the blood shed by Africans who died in their fight for liberation, and the shared blood of the African people. Black represented, well, black people. And green was a symbol of growth and the natural fertility of Africa.

Source: NPR  Code Switch Podcast by Leah Donnella, June 14, 2017.

Notable People