Each year, agencies and institutions across the United States take time to observe February as Black History Month — a month within the year to acknowledge the heritages, histories, contributions, legacies and lived experiences of black identified persons to the United States and greater global communities. A somewhat familiar observance and activity in the 21st century, it is imperative that communities take the time to revisit the historical relevance of black identified persons in America and their role in the modern day understanding of civil rights. 

Black History Month began as Negro History Week as an initiative created by Carter G. Woodson in February 1926. Believing that the black experience was too important to only be discussed by historians and other academics, Woodson understood black history and culture to be imperative tools for racial uplift and the advancement of civil rights. Negro History Week was designated during the second week of February in order to commemorate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass and their roles in the abolishment of slavery in the mid to late 1800s. 

Negro History Month was extended for a full month as a result of a proposal made by the Black United Students of Kent State University in February 1969. In February of 1970, the inaugural celebration of Black History Month was held at Kent State University and other institutions began to follow suit. In 1976, the bicentennial of the United States, President Gerald R. Ford expanded African-American week into a full month. 

Black History Month is an integral part of our nation’s tradition in which we continue to promote positive examples of poignant historical events, exemplary leaders and steps towards societal change. This remembrance is not only deeply meaningful for the African-American community, but imperative for the greater understanding of national and world history. As you think about the ways in which you will celebrate Black History, I offer a few suggestions. 

First, celebrate with knowledge. In addition to Google, access the number of books, articles and multimedia that chronicles various dimensions of the black experience in Belk Library. The archives of Belk Library are a treasure trove of information about Elon University and hold many gems regarding the impact that black people have had at Elon University. You are encouraged to check that out.

Second, engage the community. February has become a time designated for reflection, open dialogue, interdisciplinary education and shared advocacy initiatives. The Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education (CREDE) in partnership with many university offices and academic departments have created a robust array of programming to celebrate black history. Check E-Net and the CREDE website for a complete list events. 

Every race is connected to the rich history of this nation, and by celebrating Black History Month everyone can be included in a tradition of acknowledgement, inclusion and community engagement. If you have questions about Black History Month feel free to contact Brandon Bell at bbell5@elon.edu for more information.


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