Black History Month is an annual celebration recognizing and celebrating the historical impact of African Americans in the United States. The contributions African Americans have made in the United States date back to the nation's very establishment, yet even so, it was not always recognized, let alone celebrated. Half a century after slavery was abolished, one man sought to change this. Carter G. Woodson, renowned historian and educator, dedicated his entire life to educating African Americans about their rich history and the contributions of their ancestors.
Having lived through a time where enslaved peoples were stripped of every fiber of humanity and identity, Woodson sought not only to reckon with and heal from the past but also to truly celebrate the abundant history of African Americans. He himself was a former sharecropper who worked laboriously to support his family. As a result, he entered high school late,yet his sheer grit enabled him to catch up, finish high school, and graduate college within the span of two short years. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Chicago and a doctorate from Harvard University, becoming the second African American at the time to receive a Ph.D. from a prestigious university.
While possibly already brewing some ideas, Woodson did not act on the concept of a celebration of Black history until a trip to Chicago, when the spark lit a fire. Attending a national celebration of the anniversary of emancipation, Woodson united with old friends and thousands of strangers. Moved by this act of togetherness and by an exhibition spotlighting African Americans' history and achievements, Woodson changed the course of his life in the pursuit of celebration.
The pain and suffering of Black people in the United States is undeniable. While Carter did not disregard the history of racism and oppression, he created a way to not only grapple with the history, but also to spotlight and celebrate the legacy of Black Americans. The original celebration began as only a week, however Woodson clearly believed the short length of the event was not proportional to the significance of their place in history. His efforts, along with young students' increased awareness of and participation in the civil rights movements, helped uphold the celebration of Black history. Since 1976, every United States President has recognized the entire month of February as Black History Month. However, Woodson’s contributions were not just honored in the US government. Today, people across the world stand to carry on the pursuit of education and protecting the memory of their history.