Black History Month 2023: How Carter G. Woodson Preserved Black Excellence

    Dr. Carter G. Woodson's "Negro History Week" was initiated on February 7, 1926 to bring national attention to the accomplishments of Black people in history.

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    Carter G. Woodson Father of Black History Month
    Source: U.S. National Service BlackPast Archives Center National Museum of American History Smithsonian Institution

    Welcome to Black History Month 2023.

    Since 1976, every U.S. president has acknowledged February as Black History Month to recognize the contributions African Americans have made to American culture.

    On Tuesday, January 31, President Joe Biden issued his proclamation on Black History Month 2023, noting that “we celebrate the legacy of Black Americans whose power to lead, to overcome, and to expand the meaning and practice of American democracy has helped our Nation become a more fair and just society.”

    On February 7, 1926, Woodson initiated the celebration of “Negro History Week” to bring national attention to the accomplishments of Black people in history. This week was the precursor of Black History Month. Dr. Woodson, along with other researchers and writers, paved the way for future generations to deepen their study on African American history beyond the month of February.

    Every year, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) celebrates Black History Month with a specific focus. The theme for 2022 was Black Health and Wellness. This year’s theme is Black Resistance, which explores the history of “Black Americans’ responses to establish safe spaces, where Black life can be sustained, fortified, and respected.” Institutions all over the world, such as the Library of Congress and The National Museum of African American History and Culture, are including this theme into their Black History Month commemorations.

    “For generations, African Americans worked collectively to survive and thrive in the midst of racial oppression. Through education, religious institutions, businesses, the press, and organizations, Black men and women created ways to serve and strengthen their communities. They established networks of mutual support, cultivated leadership, and improved social and economic opportunities. They also developed a tradition of activism that paved the way for broader social change,” the museum said.

    Although Black History Month didn’t become a month-long national observance until 1976, Black history has been acknowledged and celebrated by African-Americans for decades.

    On September 15, 1915, Carter G. Woodson, now known as the “Father of Black History,” established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) in Chicago, IL. A month later, the association was incorporated in Washington, D.C.

    Today, the organization is known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). The association is on a mission to “promote, research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community.”

    Woodson’s work was driven by his desire to keep Black History alive. He once said, “Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”

    In January 1916, four months after launching the ASNLH, Woodson published the first issue of The Journal of Negro History. This publication later became The Journal of African American History.

    According to the University of Chicago Press Journals, The Journal of Negro History was the first piece of original scholarly content to cover African-American life and history. It remains a leading scholarly publication for research and content about the African-American experience.

    “The aim of this generation should be to collect the records of the Negro and treat them scientifically in order that the race may not become a negligible factor in the thought of the world.” – Carter G. Woodson, 1939

    Keeping the Mission Alive

    What are you doing to keep Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s mission alive? Woodson believed “Black people should be proud of their heritage and all Americans should understand the largely overlooked achievements of Black Americans,” according to the NAACP.

    This year, you can celebrate by highlighting what Black resistance means to you.

    “By resisting Black people have achieved triumphs, successes, and progress as seen in the end of chattel slavery, dismantling of Jim and Jane Crow segregation in the South, increased political representation at all levels of government, desegregation of educational institutions, the passage of Civil Rights Act of 1964, the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History in DC and increased and diverse representation of Black experiences in media,” said ASALH. “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.”

    Since we launched the Chicago Southsider in August 2021, we’ve been committed to highlighting the contributions African-Americans have made on Chicago’s South Side. We also highlight stories from emerging and experienced entrepreneurs that don’t always get recognized by mainstream media.

    Please help us continue Woodson’s legacy by supporting Chicago Southsider. Woodson said, “Let us banish fear. We have been in this mental state for three centuries. I am a radical. I am ready to act, if I can find brave men to help me.”

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