Monday, February 1, 2010

Black History Month

Americans have recognized black history annually since 1926, first as "Negro History Week" and later as "Black History Month." 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.

Black History Month celebrates contributions made by African Americans and people of African descent around the world. It was started by an African American man named Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1926. Back then, it was called Negro History Week and was celebrated the second week of February. Now it is celebrated for the whole month of February in the United States and Canada, and the month of October in the United Kingdom.

Why was Black History Month started?

Dr. Woodson studied African American culture and encouraged other people to study it, too. He felt it was important for people to recognize the great contributions black people have made. He devoted his life to educating people as a teacher, a writer, and a publisher. He was also a political activist who worked to make sure the government treated African Americans fairly.

Negro History Week was set for the second week in February to celebrate the birthdays of two people who worked hard for African Americans: Abraham Lincoln, the white president who freed the slaves, and Frederick Douglass, the first African American Vice Presidential nominee.

Negro History Week became Black History Month in 1976, in celebration of our nation's 200th birthday.

How do people feel about Black History Month?

Some people feel it's unfair to set aside a month celebrating the history of one race. Others say that celebrating black history separately from American History underlines the idea that African Americans are not Americans, and their history is set apart from mainstream culture. But people who think black history is important say that as long as there is racism, unfairness, and a lack of understanding of black culture, there is a place for Black History Month.

Ways to Celebrate Black History Month

No matter what your background, everyone can celebrate the importance of Black History Month. Celebrate the achievements and inventions of the black people featured in this article by reading about them below. Which important figures below contributed something that means a lot to you? Find a way to commemorate those achievements that affect your everyday life, whether it's through art, film, literature, music, education, civil rights, sports or even food!

Artist Hubert Sam created this years image which depicts the National Theme for Black History Month 2010 “The History of Black Economic Empowerment”. The need for economic development has been a central element of black life. Our poster recognizes individuals from all walks of life who have contributed through their success to the history of Black Empowerment.

Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Jr. (born August 14, 1959) is a retired American professional basketball player who was a point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He runs Magic Johnson Enterprises, a company that has a net worth of $700 million; its subsidiaries include Magic Johnson Productions, a promotional company; Magic Johnson Theaters, a nationwide chain of movie theaters; and Magic Johnson Entertainment, a movie studio.

Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman (January 26, 1892 – April 30, 1926) was an American civil aviator. Popularly known as "Queen Bess", she was the first African American to become an airplane pilot, and the first American of any race or gender to hold an international pilot license.

Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth (7 April 1842 – 14 September 1914) was an American soldier in the United States Army. He was the highest ranking African American commissioned officer in the United States military at his retirement in 1906, and is remembered as the founder of the all-black township of Allensworth, California, now Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park.

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. National Hero of Jamaica (17 August 1887 – 10 June 1940), was a publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, Black Nationalist, Pan-Africanist, and orator. Marcus Garvey was founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League UNIA-ACL).

Robert L. Johnson (born April 8, 1946) is an American businessman and founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), and is also its former chairman and chief executive officer. Johnson is currently chairman and founder of RLJ Development and majority-owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, a National Basketball Association franchise along with rapper Nelly and NBA legend Michael Jordan. In 2001 Johnson became the first African American billionaire, and the first black person to be listed on any of Forbes world's rich list.

Sheila Crump Johnson (born 1949) Sheila Johnson is the world’s first female African-American billionaire. Johnson is a Global Ambassador for CARE, a humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. Sheila's I Am Powerful Challenge raised over $8 million in 2007. She serves as Chair of the Board of Governors of Parsons The New School for Design in New York and funded the opening of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, combining classrooms, public program spaces and galleries.

George Washington Carver (January 1864 – January 5, 1943), was an American scientist, botanist, educator and inventor whose studies and teaching revolutionized agriculture in the Southern United States.

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm (November 30, 1924 – January 1, 2005) was an African-American politician, educator, and author. She was a Congresswoman, representing New York's 12th Congressional District for seven terms from 1969 to 1983. In 1968, she became the first black woman elected to Congress.

Wallace "Wally" Amos, Jr. (born July 1, 1936) is an American actor and writer from Tallahassee, Florida. He is the founder of the "Famous Amos" chocolate chip cookie brand. He later co-founded Uncle Wally's muffins. He currently resides in Kailua, Hawaii and also Long Island, New York, where he runs the Chip & Cookie gourmet cookie.

Madam C.J. Walker (December 23, 1867 – May 25, 1919) was an American businesswoman, hair care entrepreneur, tycoon and philanthropist. She died after World War I. Her fortune was made by developing and marketing a hugely successful line of beauty and hair products for black women, under the company she founded Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company. The Guinness Book of Records cites Walker as the first female who became a millionaire by her own achievements. In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Madam C. J. Walker on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.

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