February is Black History Month in the United States, a time when we recognize, celebrate, and honor the achievements, contributions, legacy, and past and current struggles of all Black Americans.

Officially recognized for the first time in 1976, every sitting president since then has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a theme.  This year’s theme is “Black Health and Wellness”, “the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birth workers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora. The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well.” You can find out more about this year’s theme here

The history of Black History Month actually began in September of 1915 when Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-trained historian, and other prominent Black Americans created the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). The ASNLH was an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by Black Americans and other people of African descent. This group still exists today and is known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

In 1926, the ASNLH sponsored a national Negro History Week in the second week of February. This week was chosen because it coincided with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist leader and activist Frederick Douglass, the lives of which had been celebrated for decades by Black communities.

Through the next four decades, mayors in cities all across the country began recognizing and celebrating Negro History Week. By the 1960’s, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, many college campuses in the US were already building upon Negro History Week and celebrating Black History Month throughout February.

In 1976, sitting President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month. He 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.”

Since then, Black History Month has continued to evolve and increase awareness and recognition of the accomplishments, achievements, and sacrifices of Black Americans both past and present.

Along with the United States, Canada also has its own Black History celebration in February, while Ireland and the United Kingdom celebrate in October.If you’d like to learn more about Black History Month, you can find information here and here.