February is Black History Month, officially designated as such by every U.S. President since 1976. It is a
time for recognizing the significant role African Americans have played in U.S. history and celebrating
their achievements. Various organizations join in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans
who have struggled to achieve full citizenship and recognition in the culture. These organizations
- National Endowment for the Humanities
- National Gallery of Art
- Library of Congress
- National Archives and Records Administration
- National Park Service
- Smithsonian Institution
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
What Is the Origin of Black History Month?
The story of Black History Month began in 1915, half a century after slavery was abolished by the
Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, when Harvard-educated historian Carter G. Woodson
and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now
known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). This organization is
dedicated to researching and promoting the achievements of people of African descent.
ASALH sponsored a national Negro history week in 1926. It chose the second week in February to
coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, a prominent leader of the
abolitionist movement. This inspired local celebrations nationwide. In subsequent decades, mayors of
cities throughout the country began recognizing Negro History Week.
Thanks in part to the civil rights movement, by the late 1960’s, Negro History Week had evolved into
Black History Month on many college campuses. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized
Black History Month. He called on the American public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often
neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
What Is This Year’s Black History Month Theme?
Every U.S. President since Gerald Ford in 1976 has endorsed a specific theme for Black History Month. In
2023, the theme is “Black Resistance.” It explores the ways in which African Americans have resisted
oppression since the earliest days of our nation. As stated by the ASALH, Black Resistance has enabled
African Americans to end slavery, dismantle Jim Crow laws, end segregation, and increase political
Since their arrival on these shores, Black people have resisted oppression in all forms. Resistance by
African Americans and their allies has led to boycotts, sit-ins, strikes, and walk-outs in the fight against
discrimination in all sectors of society, from education to employment to housing. With leaders like the
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Black people have fought to protect and nurture Black lives. Their progress and triumphs include the end of slavery, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, desegregation in the
South, desegregation of educational institutions, increased political representation, and the opening of
the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C.
What Events Are Planned for Black History Month?
Events scheduled in celebration of Black History Month include the Smithsonian National Portrait
Gallery’s exhibition beginning February 10 entitled “I Dream a World,” with selections of Brian Lanker’s
portraits of remarkable black women. On February 8, 2023, the Library of Congress is conducting an
online event entitled, “African Americans in Business: Doing Historical Company Research.” It features
historic Black barbers who supported black education and the civil rights movement, many of whom
went on to other businesses, including real estate, finance, and insurance.