The origin of Black History Month dates back to 1925, when historian and founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, announced his idea for a nationally celebrated Negro History week to honor the numerous contributions that blacks have made to American society. Negro History Week was first celebrated the following year in February 1926 in major cities across the United States, and was expanded to a month-long event in 1976, fifty years after the original Negro History Week. President Gerald R. Ford declared February Black History Month, and called on Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Dr. Woodson’s organization is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), whose mission is to preserve, promote and educate the global community about black life, history and culture year-round. The ASALH aims to raise awareness of African Americans’ contributions to society while fighting for equality. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History works to empower black people through its education and outreach.
2019 Black History Month Theme: Black Migrations
The Association for the Study of African American Life and History names a theme to explore for each year’s Black History Month. The theme for 2019’s Black History Month is “Black Migrations,” which focuses on the movement of black peoples from the 20th century through present day.
Throughout the 20th century, people of African descent migrated to new locations for many different reasons and ultimately faced changing social realities. The Great Migration refers to the mass exodus of some six million African American from the rural southern U.S. to cities in the northeast, midwest and west that took place between 1916 and the 1970s. Black people were fleeing racism and oppression in the Deep South in pursuit of better opportunities elsewhere.
The Great Migration resulted in a more diverse, integrated urban population set amidst a rapidly changing social scene. This is evident in the new music that emerged in the following decades such as jazz, ragtime, and blues. Famous blues singers such as Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy fled racial persecution in the south for more progressive Chicago. The Harlem Renaissance which occurred in the 1920s was a result of the Great Migration as well as an influx of African American immigrants from the Caribbean to Harlem and was accompanied by a flourishing of intellectual, social and artistic expression.
The Association for the Study of African American Life and History holds an annual Black History Month Luncheon which will take place in Washington, D.C. on February 16, 2019 where they will explore the theme of Black Migrations. There are also many different local Black History Month events across the country such as lectures, concerts, museum exhibits, and other cultural events throughout the month of February.