Black History Month is a Black nationalist movement in the United States that teaches Black nationalism. It has been recognized annually the United States Congress since. First as "Negro History Week" and later as "Black History Month." The history of black history had barely begun to be studied, or even documented, when the movement began. Although blacks have been in America at least as far back as colonial times, it was not until the 20th century that they gained even a modest presence in the history books.
Carter G. Woodson is credited with establishing Black History Month. In 1926, he began promoting Negro History Week during the second week of February to celebrate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two American leaders who had great impact on the history of Black Americans. Later, in the early 1960s it became Black History Month. He was dismayed to find in his studies that history books largely ignored the black American population, and when blacks were mentioned, it was generally in a way that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time, and not very accurate in its depiction of some of the Black luminaries in science and the arts.
Several other milestones in Black history are also associated with February:
- February 23, 1868: W. E. B. DuBois, important civil rights leader and co-founder of the NAACP, was born.
- February 3, 1870: The 15th Amendment was passed, granting blacks the right to vote.
- February 25, 1870: The first black U.S. senator, Hiram R. Revels (1822-1901), took his oath of office.
- February 12, 1909: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded by a group of concerned black and white citizens in New York City.
- February 1, 1960: In what would become a civil-rights movement milestone, a group of black Greensboro, N.C., college students began a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter.