Celebrating Black History Month

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

Black History Month dates back to the summer of 1915 when a young alumnus of the University of Chicago, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, traveled to Washington, D.C. to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the state of Illinois. Later that year, he founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). In February 1926, Dr. Woodson initiated the first Negro History Week through the organization and selected the first week in February to include the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass, two prominent figures in African American History.

Fast forward to 1975, when President Gerald Ford urged all Americans to “recognize the important contribution made to our nation’s life and culture by Black citizens” in his Message on the Observance of Black History Week. In 1976, the ASALH expanded Black History Week into Black History Month in the United States. Later that year, President Ford issued the first Message on the Observance of Black History Month.

It wasn’t until 1986 when Congress passed Public Law 99-244 which noted February 1, 1986 would “mark the beginning of the sixtieth annual public and private salute to Black History.” The law directed the President to issue a proclamation to call on the people of the United States to observe February 1986 as Black History Month.

Since becoming a nationally recognized month-long celebration, countries from around the world have begun to commemorate Black History Month. In 1987, the United Kingdom celebrated Black History Month for the first time and has since throughout the month of October. Canada officially recognized February as Black History Month in 1995. Ireland adopted and recognized Black History Month in 2010. Today, Black History Month is used to celebrate the accomplishments of Black Americans in every discipline, promote Black Americans to continue breaking glass ceilings and encourage the teaching of Black history in education.

Phi Kappa Psi is proud to recognize Black History Month. Throughout the month, we will be spotlighting some of our Black members and their accomplishments. If you would like a chance to have your story shared, email marketing@phikappapsi.com.