First recognized in 1970, Black History Month is an annual celebration of the often-overlooked contributions that Black people have made to society, history, and culture. It began as a celebration at Kent State University, and by 1975, Black History Month was being celebrated across all the states of the USA.
Each year, there is a specific theme. The theme for 2021 is: “Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity.”
When endorsing Black History Month, President Ford said we should:
“seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
There are thousands of Black people who have played a pivotal role in shaping history, but here are three notable Blacks who have shaped, and in some cases continue to shape, history.
Ella Josephine Baker, born December 13, 1903, was an African-American human and civil rights activist who worked with some of the most widely-known and respected civil rights leaders – including Martin Luther King Jr.
In 1960, Ella Baker organized a meeting at Shaw University for the student leaders of the sit-ins in April 1960, and the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) was born. With Ella Baker’s leadership, SNCC became one of the primary advocates for human rights in America.
In 1961, SNCC members and activists from CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) organized the Freedom Rides. In 1964, they helped create Freedom Summer.
Carter G. Woodson
Carter G. Woodson, born December 19, 1875, was the first American historian to open the long-neglected field of Black studies to scholars. He also popularized the field of Black history in the schools and colleges of Black people.
He was unable to enroll in high school until he was 20, having spent a good portion of his childhood working in the Kentucky coal mines to support himself. He graduated in less than two years and went on to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1912.
In 1915 he founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History to encourage scholars to study Black history. Previously, Black history had been widely neglected, or worse, distorted, by historians who too readily accepted the traditional, biased account of Blacks in American and world history. In 1926, he founded Negro History Week to focus attention on Black contributions to civilization. Negro History Week is generally considered the precursor to Black History Month.
Dr. Angela Davis is a professor emerita in History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies Departments at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and is an internationally renowned political activist, philosopher, academic and author. In the 60s and 70s, she was an active part of the Civil Rights and Radical movements.
Dr Davis was unfairly imprisoned for 16 months in the early 70s as a result of her political activism. She was eventually acquitted in 1972 after an enormous national campaign to free her. Since then, she has founded Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization dedicated to abolishing the prison-industrial complex.