Origins of Black History Month Black History Month, or National African American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans.

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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 cities across the nation followed King's death. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law a bill declaring Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday. It was first observed in 1986. Every year, on the third Monday in January, the nation honors King's memory and spirit and the great strides he made toward equality for all Americans. On January 31, 2006, Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., died. She was 78 years old. After her husband was assassinated in 1968, King dedicated her life to pursuing his dream of ending racism and poverty in America. King also led the effort to establish a national holiday in her husband's name.
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  • 1972 Taking Affirmative Action In 1972, Congress passed two important laws that helped expand job opportunities to black workers. Called affirmative action laws, they required governments and public institutions to hire more minorities, including black and female workers, because of past discrimination against these minorities as a group. Since the laws were passed, there has been a huge increase in the number of minorities in all areas of employment. Nearly 20 years later, supporters believe affirmative action is still needed to make sure all people have the same access to jobs and other opportunities. Others say that affirmative action laws are no longer necessary because of equality that has already been achieved nationwide. 1983 Jesse Jackson Runs for President In 1983, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a famous civil rights leader, announced his plan to run for President. Jackson ran in 1984 and 1988, and received 6.7 million votes in the 1988 presidential primary election, putting him solidly in third place. Jackson's two campaigns were important because they showed the key role black people play in national politics. Today, Jackson remains the nation's most well known black political leader. A group he founded in 1984 called the Rainbow Coalition today remains active in promoting civil rights for all minorities. Black participation in politics didn't start with Jackson. In 1870, 113 years before Jackson's run for the President, Hiram Revels of Mississippi was elected the nation's first black U.S. Senator. Revels was a pastor and defied the law by allowing slaves to worship in his church. He also started a school to teach black children to read and write. In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the country's first black congresswoman. Today, many black leaders hold important positions in government, including our Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, who is in charge of U.S. relations with other countries. 1995 The Million Man March On October 16, 1995, the Nation of Islam and its controversial leader, Louis Farrakhan, organized the Million Man March. About 400,000 people, mostly black men and boys, participated in the march. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, poet Maya Angelou and Rosa Parks, the mother of the civil rights movement, made speeches at the march. They spoke about the unfairness still faced by black men in this country. They also urged black men to be leaders in their communities and to work together to improve life for all black Americans. The march was repeated in years that followed, changing its name to the Million Family March and including women.
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  • Today Achieving Power in Government November 4, 2008, will be forever remembered as the day change came to the nation. American voters went to the polls and gave Barack Obama a resounding victory. He won more votes than any candidate in U.S. history. His popularity was proven once again as 2 million people braved frigid temperatures on the National Mall to witness history on January 20, 2009, when Obama officially became the first African-American President of the United States. Obamas father, Barack Obama, Sr., was born and raised in Kenya, Africa. His mother, Ann Dunham, was raised in Kansas. He grew up in Hawaii and graduated from Harvard Law School, in Boston, Massachusetts. Obama worked as a civil rights lawyer in Chicago, Illinois, and in 1996, was elected to the Illinois State Senate. He won a U.S. Senate seat in 2004. The Illinois senator entered the Presidential race as an underdog, running against New York senator Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination. But his promises to unite the nation and bring change to Washington, D.C., helped him win the Democratic Party nomination and ultimately the Presidency. His historic victory reminds people that America is a place where all things are possible.
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  • This is an amazing timeline from 1619 until April 2013. It includes all categories such as national events, political, sports, entertainment, literature, science and education. Click the link to access it. Did you know In 1492 a black navigator, Pedro Alonso Nino, travels with Christopher Columbus on his first trip to the New World.
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  • February 1 - The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery, was adopted by the 38th Congress. Ratification was completed December 6, 1865. Also in 1870, Jonathan Jasper Wright was elected to the South Carolina Supreme Court. February 2 - Today in 1914, artist William Ellisworth is born in Washington, North Carolina. Educated at Syracuse University, he was a student of Florida artist Augusta Savage. His works were exhibited at Atlanta University, the Whitney Museum, the Two Centuries of Black American Art exhibit, Fisk University, Hampton University, the North Carolina Museum of Art and private collectors. February 3 - Six time All-Star Bill White was named president of National League IN 1989. Former Saint Louis Cardinals first baseman Bill White is named president of the National League. He is the first African American to head a major sports league. On February 3, 1903; Jack Johnson became the first Negro Heavyweight Champion, The Negro Baseball League founded in 1920. February 4 - Today in 1986, a stamp of Sojourner Truth is issued by the U.S. Postal Service. February 5 - Henry "Home Run King" Aaron, baseball superstar was born in 1934. February 6 - On this day in 1867,The Peabody Fund for Black education in the South established. February 7 - Negro History week originated by Carter G. Woodson is observed for the first time in 1926. February 8 - Figure skater Debi Thomas became the first African American to win the Women's Singles of the U.S. National Figure Skating Championship competition, was a pre-med student at Stanford University in 1986. February Facts 7 Things You Should Know About Medgar Evers 10 Things You May Not Know About Martin Luther King Jr.
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  • February 9 - In 1979, Baseball Hall of Fame announced that Leroy "Satchel" Paige would be inducted. February 10 - 1964, After 10 days of debate and voting on 125 amendments, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by a vote of 290-130. The bill prohibited any state or local government or public facility from denying access to anyone because of race or ethnic origin. It further gave the U.S. Attorney General the power to bring school desegregation law suits. February 11 - Today in 1996, Penn's Baccalaureate Speaker was the Right Reverend Barbara Clementine Harris, a Philadelphian who was the first woman ever to become a bishop in the Anglican Communion. February 12 - Birthday of William Felton Russell, better known as "Bill" Russel, he was player-coach of the Boston Celtics basketball team in 1968 and 1969. Russell was born in Monroe, Louisiana in 1934. February 13 - The first Black professional basketball team "The Renaissance" organized 1923. February 14 - Today in 1936, National Negro Congress organized at Chicago meeting attended by 817 delegates representing more than 500 organizations. Asa Phillip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was elected president of the new organization. February 15 - Today in 1848, Sarah Roberts barred from white school in Boston. Her father, Benjamin Roberts, filed the first school integration suit on her behalf. Leon Spinks defeated Muhammad Ali for heavyweight boxing championship. Ali regained the title on September 15 and became the person to win the title three times in 1978. A. Phillip Randolph Myrlie Evers-Williams Barbara Jordan Thurgood Marshall If not us, then who? If not now, then when? John E. Lewis On April 16, 1963, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., imprisoned in an Alabama prison cell, completed work on one of the seminal texts of the American Civil Rights Movement. Letter from a Birmingham Jail Today, 50 years after it was written, Kings powerful message continues to resonate around the worldthe letter is part of many American school curriculums, has been included in more than 50 published anthologies and has been translated in to more than 40 languages.
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  • February 16 - Joe Frazier knocked out Jimmy Ellis in the second round of their New York fight and became the world heavyweight boxing champion in 1970. February 17 - James Nathaniel Brown, 63, Pro Football Hall of Fame Fullback, Born February 17, 1936 in St. Simons Island, GA, Michael Jeffrey Jordon, Basketball player, former minor league baseball player, Born New York, New York, February 17, 1963. February 18 - Today in 1913, the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was incorporated at Howard University. February 19 - Vonetta Flowers became the first black gold medalist in the history of the Winter Olympic Games. She and partner Jull Brakken won the inagural women's two-person bobsled event in 2002 at Salt Lake City, Utah. February 20 - Death of Frederick Douglass (78), Douglass was the leading Black spokesman for almost fifty years. He was a major abolitionist and a lecturer and editor. Charles Wade Barkley, basketball player, born Leeds, AL, February 20, 1963. February 21 - Today in 1987, African Americans in Tampa, Florida rebelled after an African American man was killed by a white police officer while in custody. February 22 - Julius Winfield( "Dr.J") Erving, former basketball player, born Roosevelt, NY, Feb 22, 1950. Also on this day DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince win the first rap Grammy for the hit single "Parents Just Don't Understand." February 23 - Baseball catcher Elston Gene Howard was born in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1965, Howard signed a $70,000 contract with the NY Yankees and became the highest paid player in the history of baseball at the time in 1929. February 24 - Former world heavyweight boxing champion Jimmy Ellis was born James Albert Ellis in Louisville, Kentucky in 1940. Ellis won the World Boxing Association title after beating Jerry Quarry in April 1968. February 25 - Muhammad Ali defeated Sonny Liston for world heavyweight boxing championship in 1964. Boxer Mike Tyson becomes the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World by defeating challenger Frank Bruno of England in 1989.
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  • February 26 - Theodore "Georgia Deacon" Flowers wins middleweight boxing title in 1926. On this day in 1964., the Kentucky boxer known to all as Cassius Clay, changed his name to Cassius X as he accepted Islam and rejected Christianity. "I believe in the religion of Islam. I believe in Allah and in peace...I'm not a Christian anymore." According to two biographies, Muhammad Ali by Anthony O. Edmonds and My View from the Corner by Angelo Dundee, Cassius Clay changed his name to Cassius X on the 26th. Elijah Muhammed, a black Muslim leader, announced Cassius X's name was being changed to Muhammed Ali. February 27 - Figure skater Debi Thomas becomes the first African American to win a medal (bronze) at the winter Olympic Games in 1988. February 28 - In 1932, Richard Spikes invents the automatic gear shift. Also Musician and entertainer Michael Jackson wins eight Grammy Awards. His album, "Thriller", broke all sales records to-date, and remains one of the top-grossing albums of all time.

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