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Celebrating Black History Month

Background Information

During the month of February, the annual celebration of Black History Month occurs. Half a century after the 13th amendment abolished slavery in 1915, the story of Black History Month was born.

In 1926, the forefathers of Black History Month, historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, announced the second week of Febraury to be “Negro History Week.”

The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) was founded by Woodson and Minister Jesse E. Moorland. The organization is dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by Black Americans and other peoples of African descent.

In the late 1960s, with a growing awareness of black identity, Negro History Week had evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses due to the Civil Rights Movement. 16 years later, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month and called upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Important Leaders

February celebrates Black History Month, a tribute to African American men and women who have made significant changes and accomplishments to America and throughout history-many within the fields of science, politics, law, sports, the arts, entertainment, and others.

A Baptist minister in the city of Montgomery and civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr. made his mark by preaching nonviolent protests. His famous “I Have a Dream” speech delivered in 1963 spoke out against segregation and racism within The United States. He dreamed for a better tomorrow, a better America.

One of the greatest heavy-weight champions of all time, Muhammad Ali, fought not only in the ring but also as an advocate for civil rights and other causes. He spoke out during the Vietnam War. He pointed out that Black men were disproportionately drafted and killed in Vietnam while those who returned after fighting heroically still faced racism in their own

country. In 1990, Ali helped negotiate the release of 15 American hostages from Iraq. In 1998, he became a United Nations Messenger of Peace for his work overseas. Seven years later he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

Another influential athlete like Muhammad Ali is Jackie Robinson. Robinson was the first African American to play for a Major League Baseball team- the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier - the idea that African American players couldn’t play in the top

professional leagues, but only in the “inferior” Negroleagues. He soon became involved with the Civil Rights Movement, looking for equality for all African Americans and spending his time raising money for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

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