Mayor’s Message: African American History Month

Americans have recognized African American History Month annually since 1926

“In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.”       – Thurgood Marshall

February marks the celebration of African American History Month.

Americans have recognized African American History Month annually since 1926. It was pioneered by Dr. Carter Woodson and originally called “Negro History Week.” Born to parents of former slaves, Woodson spent his childhood working in the Kentucky coal mines and enrolled in high school at age 20. He graduated within two years and later went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard.

Woodson was disturbed to find in his studies that history books largely ignored the accomplishments of African Americans and took on the challenge of writing them into the nation’s history. He established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now called the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH) in 1915. A year later he founded the widely respected Journal of Negro History.

In 1926, he launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of African Americans throughout American History.

Woodson chose the second week of February for the celebration since it marked the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the African American population, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

By the time of Woodson’s death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life and substantial progress had been made in bringing more Americans to appreciate the celebration. At mid-century, mayors of cities nationwide issued proclamations noting Negro History Week.

The celebration was expanded to a full month in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial. President Gerald Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often ignored accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Since 1976, every American president has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme. The 2020 Black History Month theme, “African Americans and the Vote,” is in honor of the centennial anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment (1920) granting women’s suffrage and the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) giving black men the right to vote.

Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history.

** Voorhees Township is offering discounted tickets to Morey’s Piers in Wildwood. Tickets are available in the Municipal Clerk’s Office at Voorhees Town Hall. Prices vary according to the type of ticket and several options are available to residents and non-residents. For more information.