February is full of holidays with Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, and Presidents’ Day. The whole month of February is also a time to celebrate and remember the great accomplishments and impact of notable African American figures in history. Learn more about the people and events that led to February becoming Black History Month.

In 1915, Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History to promote the achievements and history of African American heritage. The lack of prominent figures in textbooks and news bothered Woodson and Moorland, so they instituted a week dedicated to bringing attention to African American history. Starting in 1926, the second week of February was known as Negro History Week. Woodson chose this week because it also coincided with Frederick Douglass’s and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays. Throughout the years, cities and schools started to acknowledge this week of appreciation and extended the celebration to the timespan of a month. In 1976, President Gerard Ford recognized Black History Month telling everyone to “seize the opportunity to honor the too often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Some of the milestones include:

  • Alexander Lucius Twilight graduated college from Middlebury College in 1823.
  • Emory Malick received his pilot’s license in 1912.
  • Hattie McDaniel was the first African American female to win an Oscar in 1940
  • Jackie Robinson became a major league baseball player in 1947.
  • Gwendolyn Brooks won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1950.
  • Ella Fitzgerald won a Grammy Award in 1956.
  • Brown vs. Board of Education was a landmark case of the civil rights movement in 1954, which ruled racial segregation of children in public schools unconstitutional.
  • Guion Bluford traveled to space in 1983.
  • Colin Powell was appointed U.S. Secretary of State in 2001.

Other African Americans who have made an amazing impact in history, are Ida B. Wells, Sojourner Truth, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Bessie Coleman, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, Gordon Parks, Barack Obama and the list could go on and on.

American history has benefited greatly from the accomplishments and talents of people from every race, religion, and ethnic background. Black History Month is a way for everyone to appreciate the people and milestones that have shaped our country.