Black History Month, or African American History Month, began as a week-long celebration in 1926. In the 1890s, Black communities began celebrating the birthdays of two people considered to have a big impact on Black history in the US: Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14). In 1915, Dr. Carter G. Woodson was one of many people who traveled to Washington, DC, to participate in a national celebration of the 50th anniversary of nationwide emancipation. He was inspired by experiences from his trip to create an organization to promote the study of Black life and history. Soon after he helped to form what is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the sponsors of Black History Month.
Dr. Woodson dedicated his life to institutionalizing the field of Black history and advocating for it to be a regular part of formal education. In 1926, he created the celebration of “Negro History Week” during the second week of February timed with the birthdays of Lincoln and Douglass. Dr. Woodson and other advocates provided educational materials each year, such as lesson plans, pictures, scripts for historical performances, and posters. Fifty years later, the week-long celebration became month-long and has been recognized by presidential proclamation every year since.