Black History Month kicks off on Feb. 1 to honor the achievements and struggles of African Americans throughout U.S. history.
From its early roots to modern day recognition, here's what you need to know about celebrating Black History month:
The History of Black History Month
Carter G. Woodson was an early scholar of African American history. Dubbed “the father of Black history,” he founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). He launched The Journal of African American History, the association’s scholarly publication, in 1916 — half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the U.S.
Get New England news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NECN newsletters.
Woodson was determined to dedicate time to celebrating the historic contributions of Black people, leading him to establish Negro History Week in February 1926.
Over the years, mayors of cities across the nation also began recognizing Negro History Week. By the late 1960s, catalyzed by the Civil Rights movement and efforts to transform race relations, Negro History Week evolved into Black History Month for many schools and communities.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month as a national observance, encouraging Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Why Do We Celebrate Black History Month in February?
February is the birth month of two prominent figures who contributed to the freedom of enslaved African Americans.
President Abraham Lincoln, born on Feb. 12, issued the Emancipation Proclamation during the third year of the Civil War, which declared enslaved people living within the rebellious states free and linked the issue of slavery directly to the war.
Frederick Douglass was born enslaved and later became a leader in the abolitionist movement. His date of birth was not recorded, but he celebrated his birthday on Feb. 14.
Woodson chose the second week of February for Negro History Week to honor their birthdays and legacies.
Since 1976, every U.S. president after Ford has officially designated February as Black History Month.
More Black History Month Content:
What’s This Year’s Theme for Black History Month?
Black History Month has a different theme every year.
Woodson believed providing a theme was essential to focus the public’s attention. The ASALH said it selects themes that “reflect changes in how people of African descent in the United States have viewed themselves, the influence of social movements on racial ideologies, and the aspirations of the Black community.”
The theme of this year’s Black History Month is Black Resistance.
"Black resistance strategies have served as a model for every other social movement in the country, thus, the legacy and importance of these actions cannot be understated," the ASALH's website states.
How to Celebrate Black History Month
There are various ways to celebrate the month and educate yourself on Black history.
Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
Watch a movie
Still haven't seen "Wakanda Forever" or "Woman King?" AMC Theaters is offering $5 movie tickets to watch films from Black actors and filmmakers.
If you prefer watching movies from home, here is a list of more films available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and other popular streaming services.
Support Black-owned businesses and artists
Many top shopping sites like Amazon, Yelp and Door Dash allow you to filter for Black-owned businesses and restaurants. Try it out next time you place an online order.
Find online celebrations
The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture is providing free online programming this month. You can view the full calendar here.
Attend local events
Check your city and state government websites for Black History Month events like art and music workshops, film screenings and more.
More options include researching Black history in your community and reading Black literature.