Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Black Youth Changed America 4Ever!

This year's theme for Black History Month is African-Americans and the Civil War, celebrating Black soldiers who comprised approximately 10% of the Union Army fought to abolish slavery.  Roughly one third of the 200,000 soldiers, most of who were in their teens, lost their lives fighting for our freedom.   As Jesse Jackson says, "Freedom is not free!"

The story of Black History Month begins in 1915, half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery in the United States. That September, the Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister Reverend Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by Black Americans and other people of African descent. Known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the group sponsored a national Negro History week in 1926, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The event inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs and host performances and lectures commemorating Negro achievements.

In the decades that followed, mayors of cities across the country issued proclamations recognizing Negro History Week. By the late 1960s, thanks in part to the Civil Rights Movement and a growing awareness of Black identity, Negro History Week had evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses.

President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history." Since then, every American president has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme. In 2010, we focused on the history of Black economic empowerment and recognized the achievements of the painter Jacob Lawrence, the entrepreneur Annie Malone and the National Urban League.  Check back with for more stories on African-Americans and the Civil War.

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