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Black historian and journalist Carter G. Woodson helped found Negro History Week in 1926.
The celebration coincided with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass during the second week of February.
Honoring the contributions of black Americans expanded from black communities in the 1950s and ‘60s to schools and city halls across the country, as teachers and mayors took part, too. The celebration was expanded to the entire month in 1976.
“Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history,” President Gerald R. Ford said at the time.
Since 1996, the president has issued a proclamation setting the theme for the month. This year’s is “African-Americans in Times of War,” calling attention to the contributions during military conflicts from the Revolutionary War to current military operations.
Black History Month resources: