February brings about a season of pride for many Black Americans and Black people around the world. It is the month historically dedicated to celebrating and acknowledging not just the hardships the community has overcome, but the achievements and history made throughout time. However, many people do not know the history of Black History Month and ask the question “Why is Black History Month in February?” It’s even become a running joke centered around a deeper criticism as to why Black History Month is dedicated to the shortest month of the year. 

The answer to “Why is Black History Month in February?” actually proves that the month for this observance was specifically chosen for its significance rather than purposely designating it to the shortest month of the year. Here is everything behind why Black History Month is in February.

Why Is Black History Month in February?

Black History Month is celebrated in February in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom as a time to recognize and honor the achievements and contributions of Black people throughout history. The origins of this observance date back to the early 20th century when Carter G. Woodson, often referred to as the “Father of Black History,” established “Negro History Week” in 1926. 

According to Daryl Michael Scott for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), Woodson was inspired to make “an organization to promote the scientific study of black life and history” in 1915 after attending a national celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the state of Illinois. Here he witnessed an overflow of thousands of Black Americans and also white republicans (the former name of the democratic party) gather for three weeks to celebrate and learn about this period of history. September 9th, 1915 Woodson, A. L. Jackson and three others formed Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). 

A year later, Woodson established The Journal of Negro History and encouraged as many people as possible to read it and spread the findings of him and other Black historians/intellectuals. His efforts were successful as the outreach of the journal was spreading. This was so much so that he felt he should extend the outreach and establish a Negro history week, which he did in 1926. Woodson chose the second week of February for Negro History Week to coincide with the birthdays of two significant figures in African American history: Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14). ASALH explained that he also did this to keep up with the tradition of many Black Americans already celebrating these figure’s birthdays. 

However, Woodson was not fond of celebrating only these two men for the progress made for Black Americans and wanted to push for the celebration of the Black community itself in which he believed really deserved the credit.  Scott wrote, “ He envisioned the study and celebration of the Negro as a race, not simply as the producers of a great man. And Lincoln, however great, had not freed the slaves—the Union Army, including hundreds of thousands of black soldiers and sailors, had done that.”

The Tradition Lived On

Over time, as awareness and recognition of Black history grew, the celebration expanded from a week to a month. This was done as the popularity of Negro History Week grew around the country and Woodson as well as other Black Americans were realizing a week is simply not enough time to learn about and acknowledge the extensive history of Black people in America. He wanted the education of Americans on Black history to extend year-round. Woodson passed away in 1950, but his work and the organization he founded lived on. Schools around the country continued to celebrate Negro History week and Black Americans simultaneously continued to push for its extension. 

By the 1960s, the observance was becoming celebrated largely throughout the month of February rather than just a week. Scott for ASALH wrote that the pace of this change was accelerated by Black college students that were learning more about Black Americans’ connection to Africa and the Civil Rights Movement. Other Black Americans were becoming enlightened during the rise of Black consciousness in the 1960s, according to Britannica. The Black youth are the ones that encouraged the Woodson’s still-standing organization to change its name from Association for the Study of Negro Life and History to what it is today. 

By 1976, the organization’s influence was so great that it was able to institutionalize the shift from a “Negro History Day” to a Black history month. That year, President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month, urging the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” 

We Continue To Celebrate Black History Every February

Since then, Black History Month has been an annual observance dedicated to acknowledging and celebrating the rich history and achievements of African Americans. It has been acknowledged by every U.S. president since. The push for this observance was never easy and came with opposition, as well as attempts to commodify it and take it over. Woodson had to advise against this and for others to be wary of this.

Today, there is still opposition to education centered around Black Americans like the banning of books related to Black history in schools and of Critical Race theory. It becomes more important every year that Black History Month continues to be observed. It can start with simply answering the question, “Why is Black History Month in February?”