Black History Month

What is African-American History Month?

Each February, the United States celebrates African-American History Month, also known as Black History Month. This annual observance recognizes the important achievements by African Americans in U.S. history.

In 1926, just 61 years after the abolition of slavery, the Association for Study of Negro Life and History decided to sponsor a national week dedicated to Black history in February, coinciding with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

By the late 1960s the success of the civil rights movement and a growing awareness of black identity led many U.S. colleges to start teaching African-American history, which until then had been largely ignored. Soon, universities and cities began honoring this important aspect of the American Story by celebrating African-American History Month. In 1976 President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month 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.”

Statement by President Joe Biden On Black History Month

This February, during Black History Month, I call on the American people to honor the history and achievements of Black Americans and to reflect on the centuries of struggle that have brought us to this time of reckoning, redemption, and hope. [Click here to read the full statement]

Contributions

Since the earliest settlements in America, Black Americans have influenced the nation’s language, culture, religion, literature, music, film, art, cuisine, dance, athletics, and more.They have had significant roles in the fields of science, medicine, education, the judiciary, politics, law enforcement, the military, and the country’s intellectual life. African Americans have played an indispensable role in making the United States the country it is today.

Poet Amanda Gorman speaks to a new time for America

A poetry reading by a respected poet in Washington typically draws a couple of hundred listeners. Amanda Gorman, 22 and barely out of college, likely reached tens of millions of television viewers January 20 as she joined a star-studded presidential inauguration program.

Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet, read her poem “The Hill We Climb” in honor of the oldest president to take office, Joseph R. Biden.

Notable figures in American history

Many U.S. institutions and businesses celebrate the month of February through events, exhibits, and discussions about the role of African Americans in American culture and history. Find out some notable figures in American history.Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at interfaith civil rights rally, San Francisco Cow Palace, June 30, 1964

  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a prominent leader during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. He called for non-violent resistance and pushed for peace and equality. [Click here to read his speech]
  • Harriet Tubman was an abolitionist and“conductor” on the Underground Railroad, and worked directly with the U.S. military during the Civil War. 
  • Benjamin Banneker was an astronomist, mathematician, and urban planner. He is notable for developing accurate almanacs for farmers, surveying the land to become Washington, DC and encouraging Founder Fathers to abolish slavery.
  • Katherine Johnson is a mathematician most known for her work at NASA. Her calculations helped make the first U.S. manned spaceflight a success.
  • Jesse Owens was an Olympic Gold Medalist in the 1936 in Berlin, Germany. He broke 5 world records in the track & field competitions, defying Hitler’s theory that the Aryan (white) race was superior.