Black History Month: A Moment to Reflect Our History of Achievements

February is National Black History Month, also known as National African American History Month, a time for all Americans to celebrate the achievements of African Americans and recognize their central role in American history.

The month of February was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and noted civil rights advocate Frederick Douglass. The first record of Africans arriving in North America is dated 1619, when a privateer ship carrying “twenty and odd” Africans landed at Point Comfort, Virginia, which is now modern-day Hampton, Virginia. The Africans were traded as slaves in exchange for provisions.

Black History Month was created by twentieth-century historian Carter G. Woodson, who believed black Americans were not adequately represented in the study of American history. Carter G. Woodson hoped for the day when black history would be accepted as a part of American history. Formerly known as Negro History Week, Black History Month was officially declared by President Gerald Ford in 1976.

African-Americans impact our society throughout history and in numerous ways. Here are just a few prominent individuals we honor this month:

  • Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American appointed to the Supreme Court. We recognize Thurgood Marshall every year on National Maryland Day.

  • George Washington Carver developed over 300 products from peanuts. Celebrate George Washington Carver and his contributions to the peanut industry on National Peanut Day.

  • Shirley Chisholm was the first African-American woman elected to U.S. House of Representatives.

  • Rosa Parks helped initiate the Civil Rights Movement by refusing to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Celebrate Rosa Parks on Rosa Parks Day and learn more about her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement.

  • Louis Armstrong is widely known as a jazz pioneer. Information about Louis Armstrong can be found in November on National Louisiana Day.

  • Colin Powell is a 4-star General who became Secretary of State. Colin Powell dedicated the Buffalo Soldier monument at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, establishing the first Buffalo Soldiers Day.

  • Barack Obama was elected the first Black President of the United States.

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