Santa Clara University

Office for Multicultural Learning

   Black History Month Web

What is Black History Month?

Black History Month is the celebration of the achievements and contributions of black Americans throughout history and in the present. Starting as "Negro History Week," Carter G. Woodson created this event to celebrate "not a history of selected races or nations, but a history of the world void of national bias, race hate and religious prejudice."  From 1976 to the present, every American President has officially designated February as Black History Month. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History has announced that the national theme for Black History Month 2012 is "Black Women in American Culture and History." For more information about this year's theme, visit the ASALH webiste.

   Frederick Douglass   Ida Wells Barnett    Maya Angelou   Nelson Mandela

The History of Black History Month

Since 1976 February has been recognized in America as "Black History Month" to celebrate the contributions of African Americans in our society and the world. It may surprise you that although "blacks" have been been in America as far back as colonial times, it was much later in the 20th century that their history and contribution to society has been given its due place in the American psyche and history books.

 Carter G. Woodson

The person most noted for this change in attitude and celebration is Dr. Carter G. Woodson whose parents were former slaves in the South. He spent most of his young life working in the coal mines of Kentucky until he enrolled in high school at age twenty and went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. Ever a scholar, Dr. Woodson began to try to change the consciousness of people regarding the true and positive place of "black Americans" in history books. He founded the Journal of Negro History, established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History which later became the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History.

In 1926, Dr. Woodson started Negro History Week during the month of February to bring national attention to the contributions of African Americans throughout American history. He chose the month of February to honor the birthdays of two notable Americans, namely Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, who both significantly influenced Black history.

To watch a video about the history of Black History Month visit the History Channel website.


Important Dates in February

Black Americans are making an impact on American culture and history every day. To show this, we have provided a list of interesting and important facts about black Americans for every day in February. 

Feb 1, 1865
John S. Rock becomes the first African-American attorney to practice before the United States Supreme Court.
Feb 2, 1915
Scientist Ernest E. Just receives the first NAACP Spingarn Medal.
Feb 3, 1989
Bill White is named the first African American President of Baseball's National League.
Feb 4, 1913
Rosa Parks is born
Feb 5, 1884
Inventor Willie Johnson is issued patent for the invention of the egg beater.
Feb 6, 1993
Tennis legend and human rights activist Arthur Ashe dies.
Feb 7, 1883
Ragtime composer and performer Eubie Blake is born.
Feb 8, 1986
Debi Thomas, the 18-year-old San Jose native, becomes the first African American to win woman's Senior Singles US Figure Skating Championship
Feb 9, 1906
Black dialect poet Paul Laurence Dunbar dies.
Feb 10, 1989
Ron Brown is elected the first African American Chairperson for the Democratic Party.
Feb 11, 1990
ANC Leader and Human Rights Activist Nelson Mandela is released from South African prison after 27 years of confinement.
Feb 12, 1909
NAACP founded
Feb 13, 1920
National Negro Baseball League is organized.
Feb 14, 1817
Abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass is born.
Feb 15, 1965
Jazz legend Nat King Cole dies.
Feb 16, 1957
World renowned actor Levar Burton, famous for his portrayal of Kunta Kinte in Alex Haley's Roots, is born.
Feb 17, 1942
Black Panther Party leader Huey P. Newton is born
Feb 18, 1931
Toni Morrison, the first African American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, is born
Feb 19, 1999
President Bill Clinton grants a posthumous pardon to Henry O. Flipper, the first black West Point graduate, reversing Flipper's radically motivational discharge.
Feb 20, 1927
Sidney Poitier, the first African American man to win an Academy Award, is born.
Feb 21, 1965
Civil Rights leader Malcolm X is assassinated.
Feb 22, 1911
Renowned author, abolitionist and suffragist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper dies.
Feb 23, 1868
Civil Rights leader W.E.B. DuBois is born.
Feb 24, 1811
Daniel Alexander Payne, the first African American President of an American College, is born.
Feb 25, 1870
Hiram Rhoades Revels is sworn in as the first African American United States Senator.
Feb 26, 1869
The Fifteenth Amendment guaranteeing the right to vote will not be denied on the basis of race is passed by Congress.
Feb 27, 1872
Charlotte Ray, who is the first African American woman lawyer, graduates from Howard University.
Feb 28, 1932
Inventor Richard Spikes is issued patent for the automatic gear shift.

Facts thanks to the African American Community Service Agency, San Jose, CA.


Helpful Links

These links are provided for anyone looking to learn more about Black history and culture.


The Office for Multicultural Learning or Igwebuike does not necessarily support or advocate for any of the following links. All views expressed in these sites are those of the authors.

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