Editor’s Note: “The History of Black History” was originally published in The Mid-South Tribune and on Black Information Highway on March 9, 1996. The late Vernon E. Ash was a Senior Correspondent, columnist, and historian for The Mid-South Tribune and the Black Information Highway. We truly miss Vernon E. Ash, one of our most prolific writers and a man with a vision.
Arelya J. Mitchell, Publisher
By Vernon E. Ash
So that the contributions of African Americans would be properly represented and observed, the first observance of Negro History Week was spearheaded in 1926 by the “Father of Black History,” Dr. Carter G. Woodson.
Dr. Woodson is the author of the popular book, “The Mis-Education of the Negro,” published in 1933 and still viewed today as an important source and guidebook on the behavior and mental condition of African Americans. He was born in 1875 and died in 1950.
Other African Americans who supported Dr. Woodson’s idea collaborated with the black history scholar to choose the second week of February as the week to observe the special Negro History Week. This month and week were selected because it is the week of the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, both highly respected at the time.
In 1915, Dr. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) and began publishing The Journal of Negro History a year later. In the October 1927 edition of the Journal, Dr. Woodson wrote passionately about the significance of observing Negro History Week.
“The celebration tends not to promote propaganda, but to counteract it by popularizing the truth. It is not interested so much in Negro History as it is in history influenced by the Negro; for what the world needs is not a history of selected races or nations but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice,” Dr. Woodson wrote. “There has been, therefore, no tendency to eulogize the Negro, nor to abuse his enemies. The aim has been to emphasize important facts in the belief that facts properly set forth will speak for themselves.”
With the strong support of educators, ministers and community leaders around the nation, the first Negro History Week proved to be a tremendous success. Each group and institution took responsibility to initiate its own programs and forums to fit their particular needs in their local communities.
The popular use of the word “Negro” was replaced in the 1960s with “Black” and “Afro-American”. This new trend also forced a change in the name of the ASNLH. During its 1972 convention, delegates changed its name to the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH). Negro History Week was then changed to Black History Week.
During the nation’s Bicentennial celebration in 1976, the ASALH joined the focus on American history and decided to expand the observance of Black History Week to include the entire month of February. This was done to afford more time for activities focusing on the broad contributions of African Americans to the rich history of America and the world.
Black History Month has survived several decades and continues to grow throughout the U.S. with a variety of activities and commemorations that place the great contributions of Africans (being the original human creation) and African Americans on center stage.
This month in addition to local community celebrations and activities observing Black History Month, numerous television specials, movies, books, magazine articles and other features will focus on the “stolen legacy” of Black History.
This article can be found on the Black History Lane on the Black Information Highway and The Mid-South Tribune ONLINE at www.blackinformationhighway.com