The Man Behind Black History Month

2021 marks the 45th annual national celebration of Black History Month in the United States. As we celebrate this historic monthlong observance, it’s the ideal time to look back at how the celebration of Black History began — a legacy that dates back more than 100 years into our past.

Woodson in 1915. (Public domain image)

According to most historians, the first major recognition of the impact of Black Americans on our country’s history occurred in 1915 when author and journalist Carter G. Woodson traveled to Chicago to attend a celebration marking the anniversary of The Emancipation Proclamation. At the event, Woodson set up and displayed an exhibit that highlighted key events in the timeline of Black history.

A pioneer in the study of Black history, Woodson was the son of former slaves who grew up working in coal mines and quarries in Virginia. Although he was an incredible scholar, going on to earn a four-year high school degree in just two years, a master’s from the University of Chicago and a doctorate from Harvard, Woodson overcame numerous challenges on his way to becoming an academic great, teaching himself for much of his early education.

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