Learn about our history

Black History Month offers an opportunity to consider the impact Black Americans have made on our lives, especially in the visual arts, music, literature, fashion and culture in general.

“African Americans and the Arts” is the theme selected this year by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the founders of Black History Month. It’s a wide-ranging topic that examines how Black Americans have used art to preserve history and community memory as well as for empowerment, the association said. The theme puts into the national spotlight the richness of the past and present with an eye toward what the rest of the 21st century will bring.

Black History Month was established by Carter G. Woodson. Born in 1875 and the son of former slaves, himself a former coal miner and educator, Woodson understood a proper education was important to make the most of one’s freedom. He earned his high school diploma at an all-Black school in Huntington, W.Va., and advanced degrees at the University of Chicago.

Woodson was the second Black man to earn a doctorate at Harvard, before he established the association in 1915. February was chosen for Black History Month because of the correlation with the birthdays of abolitionist author Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln.

Woodson’s mission — one we all should strive to emulate today — was to understand our history and seek and teach the truth. It’s knowledge that is available to all during Black History Month, and it presents an opportunity to be educated and to appreciate contributions to our nation and the world.


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