Black History Month has been recognized in the United States annually since 1926, first as “Negro History Week”. The second week in February was chosen for Negro History Week because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the black American population, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. What you might not know is that black history had barely begun to be studied or even documented when the tradition originated. Although blacks have been in America at least as far back as colonial times, it was not until the 20th century that they gained a respectable presence in the history books.
We owe the celebration of Black History Month, and more importantly, the study of black history, to Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Born to parents who were former slaves, he spent his childhood working in the Kentucky coal mines and enrolled in high school at age twenty. He graduated within two years and later went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. The scholar was disturbed to find in his studies that history books largely ignored the black American population-and when blacks did figure into the picture, it was generally in ways that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time. In 1926, he launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history. Other nations that observe Black History Month are United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany.
One example is the American staple, PB&J (peanut butter and jelly sandwich) which would not exist if not for the work of black scientist George Washington Carver from Tuskegee Institute, in Alabama. The truth about something as important both agriculturally and economically to America should not be left out of our country’s historical fabric. Sadly, if you search online today for peanuts or peanut butter, Dr. Carver gets very little credit. There are so very many more inventors, scientist and engineers who have made contributions that we have benefited from who get no recognition at all.
Knowing that so many of today’s younger generation still have no idea of the importance of Black History Month made me want to take the time to explain. We simply MUST do a better job in teaching the young about America’s true history. This Washington, DC Inn is only 2 miles away from Dr. Carter G. Woodson historical site.
Chef Lisa, Innkeeper
American Guest House, A Washington, DC Bed and Breakfast
View Directions to Dr. Carter G. Woodson Museum in a larger map