origins of black history month black history month, or national african american history month, is...
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- Origins of Black History Month Black History Month, or National African American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. The event grew out of Negro History Week, the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history. The story of Black History Month begins in 1915, half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. That September, the Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by black Americans and other peoples of African descent. Known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the group sponsored a national Negro History week in 1926, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The event inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs and host performances and lectures. In the decades the followed, mayors of cities across the country began issuing yearly proclamations recognizing Negro History Week. By the late 1960s, thanks in part to the Civil Rights Movement and a growing awareness of black identity, Negro History Week had evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses. President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history. Since then, every American president has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme. The 2013 theme, At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington, marks the 150th and 50th anniversaries of two pivotal events in African-American history.
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- 1500s-1750 Slaves Arrive in America Most black Americans trace their original roots to an area in western Africa. During the early 1500's, black slaves from western Africa were brought to European colonies in the Americas. From the 1500's to the mid-1800's, Europeans shipped about 12 million black slaves from Africa to the Western Hemisphere. The first black African slaves in America arrived during the early 1600's, when slavery based on race became a way of life in all 13 colonies (settlements in America that were founded by Great Britain). Virginia made slavery legal in colonial America in 1661. By 1750, about 200,000 slaves lived in the colonies. 1800-1865 A Movement to End Slavery By the early 1800's, most Northern states had taken steps to end, or abolish, slavery. During the mid-1800s, abolitionists began to enter politics and use their homes to help black slaves escape the South to enjoy freedom in the North. This was called the "Underground Railroad" even though it wasn't underground and didn't involve any trains. Hiding places were known as "stations" and people who helped were called "conductors." Harriet Tubman, a runaway slave herself, was one of the most famous conductors, helping about 300 blacks escape to freedom. 1865-1872 Road to Freedom To help the slaves freed by the 13th Amendment, Congress established the Freedmen's Bureau in 1865 to help former slaves resettle into life. Despite its accomplishments, the Freedmen's Bureau did not solve the serious economic problems of black Americans. Most continued to live in poverty. They also suffered from racist threats and laws limiting their freedom and civil rights. In 1865 and 1866, many Southern state governments passed laws that became known as the black codes. Some of these codes did not allow black people to own land. Others established a nightly curfew and some allowed states to jail black individuals for not having a job. The black codes shocked a powerful group of northern congressmen called the Radical Republicans. They worked hard to pass the 14th Amendment, which gave citizenship to black Americans. It also guaranteed that all federal and state laws would apply equally to everyone, regardless of color.
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- 1905-1909 The NAACP is Formed In 1905, the Niagara Movement was founded by a group of black scholars and teachers led by W.E.B. Du Bois. The scholars met in Niagara Falls, Ontario, to pass resolutions, or formal statements, demanding full equality. In 1909, a group of black and white citizens in New York City committed to social justice founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Du Bois's Niagara Movement merged with the NAACP. The NAACP's goals were to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of minority citizens. The group also worked to eliminate racial discrimination. Today, the NAACP is the nation's largest and most well known civil rights organization. 1920s The Harlem Renaissance During the 1920s, many black artists, poets, writers and musicians moved to Harlem, a section of New York City, where they became well-known for their writing, art and music. Today, this period in history is called the Harlem Renaissance. During this time, black artists were able to open the publics' eyes about being black in America. It was called a renaissance, or rebirth, because African Americans took their pain and suffering and successfully turned it into art. Langston Hughes, a poet whose writing expressed the experience of working class African Americans, was considered the "Poet Laureate of Harlem." Other famous artists from this period include world-famous entertainer Josephine Baker, blues singer Bessie Smith, and jazz artists Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday. The creative work of the Harlem Renaissance artists remains very popular and admired today. 1954-1956 Fighting for Civil Rights...in Schools During the 1950s, black leaders began to use marches, demonstrations and the courts to defeat racist laws. Their efforts are known as the civil rights movement. The most famous court case of the civil rights movement began in 1950 when 7-year-old Linda Brown of Topeka, Kansas, was denied access to a school that was just four blocks from her home because she was black. Linda's father went to court and on May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation (or separating races) in public schools violates the Constitution....on Buses Another important civil rights milestone happened on December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama. On that day, Rosa Parks, a black seamstress who also worked for the NAACP, was asked to give up her bus seat to a white person. She refused and was arrested by police. Black leaders urged black people to boycott, or refuse to use, the buses in Montgomery. A young preacher named Martin Luther King Jr. led the peaceful boycott. Though originally scheduled for only one day, the boycott lasted 381 days. People walked many miles to work or home to avoid using the buses and the bus companies lost around $3,000 each day. The U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled that Montgomery could no longer have a segregated public transportation system because it violated the Constitution.
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- Early 1960s-1965 Malcolm X Makes His Mark During the early 1960s, Malcolm X gained recognition as the spokesman for the Nation of Islam, a group of Black Muslims who supported the idea of creating a separate black nation. Malcolm X spoke out forcefully against the unfair treatment of black Americans and encouraged them to use "any means necessary," including the use of violence, to achieve equality. In 1964, Malcolm X traveled to the Islamic holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Inspired by his pilgrimage, or journey to a sacred place, Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam and changed his views, choosing a more peaceful route to accomplish his goals. On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was shot and killed in New York City by Black Muslims who didn't agree with his new ideas. Today, he remains a hero to many people of all colors and races. 1963-1965 March on Washington On August 28, 1963, the civil rights movement reached its height of attention and impact with a huge March in Washington, D.C. The March on Washington attracted more than 200,000 marchers to the Lincoln Memorial. At the march, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. In it, he said: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Those words remain famous to this day. After the march, King and other civil rights leaders met with President John F. Kennedy and Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson in the White House. In 1964, following the assassination of President Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. The law guaranteed equal rights for black Americans in employment, voting, and the use of public facilities. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act ended racist laws that required black voters to pay a special tax or take a reading test before voting. The new law increased black voter registration throughout the South, especially in Mississippi. 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. is Killed In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr., who many believe was the most important leader of the civil rights movement, was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 39. A week of rioting in at least 125
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