A Call to Celebrate – African American History Month – February 2019
February is African-American History Month (sometimes referred to as Black History Month). The celebration, originally just a week, was created in 1926 to coincide with the birthdays of the African American orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln.
We encourage all of our churches to celebrate African American History Month. As a congregation, engage our youth and adults in awareness programs designed to create greater consciousness and counter negative stereotypes of the valuable contributions that African Americans/Blacks made and are still making to American history and culture in the United States and around the world.
As AMEs, we have much to be proud of as we celebrate in February the birthday of Bishop Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. His life alone will inspire and motivate us to continue the fight for economic, political and social justice for all people.
Let’s take a brief walk through history and learn the true origin of African American History Month! Actually, the celebration began as Negro History Week in 1926. Its purpose was to offer positive and accurate accounts of the valuable contributions of African Americans to America’s growth and culture that were not adequately represented, misrepresented, or totally omitted from books/textbooks, historical records and other means by which information is disseminated.
Because of these discrepancies and lack of representation, the renown historian Carter G. Woodson and members of his Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History [ASALH]) together organized a Negro History Week, beginning in February 1926.
During the next 50 years Negro History Week grew in popularity, with American cities initiating their own celebrations of black achievements and with teachers—particularly in schools with a large percentage of African American students—using class time to discuss contributions to history made by notable African Americans. The civil rights movement also contributed to its popularity, with President Gerald Ford urging Americans to participate in its observance. (Carter G. Woodson, c. 1910s.Hulton Archive/Getty Images).
At the beginning of the 21st century, African American History Month was celebrated with a range of events at public schools, universities, and museums as well as within individual communities across the country. It was sponsored at the national level by such groups as the Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration.
Every February, our nation dedicates the month to honor our nation’s African-American heritage and history. We are a people with a rich heritage of survival and resilience in the face of adversity. So let us remember our past, value the present and work toward building community. Let’s celebrate, honor, enlighten others and ourselves on our history and valuable contributions all year long.
In the Spirit of Advancing the Kingdom,
James L. Davis