Black History Month

Key Robinson, Staff

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What is Black History Month? Why do we celebrate it, and where did it come from? These are all common questions people ask every year during the month of February. Black History Month was originally named “Negro History Month.” Black History Month began in 1926 and was started by Carter G. Woodson. When this celebration first began, it was only celebrated for one week and was changed to a month in 1976. The month of February was chosen due to the births of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln being in the month.

Even before Black History Month began, African-Americans have been doing incredible and unbelievable things. In 1908, Jack Johnson became the first African-American man to hold the World Heavyweight Champion title in boxing and continued to hold the title until 1915.

The first black man to become a lawyer in Ohio was John Mercer Langston in 1854. John Mercer Langston was also the great-uncle of Langston Hughes, famed poet of the Harlem Renaissance. Have you ever wondered who the first black self-made millionaire is? Well, that woman was Madam C.J. Walker. She was born on a cotton plantation in Louisiana and after inventing her own African-American hair care products, became extremely wealthy. Even through all the fame and fortune, she never forgot her roots and was known to give back to the community and be very generous.

In 1967 president Lyndon Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall to be the first black man appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The very first African-American women US Representative was elected from 1968 to 1972. This woman was Shirley Chisholm. Another outstanding achievement that African-Americans have achieved is Hattie McDaniel being the first to win an Oscar in 1940 for her portrayal of a loyal slave governess in Gone With the Wind. These are just a few of the many of the exceptional things African-Americans have achieved.

Along with African-American individual achievements, they also have great accomplishments as a group. In 1787 slavery was made illegal in the Northwest Territory, even though the constitution stated that Congress may not ban the slave trade until 1808. During the year 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the Confederate states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

The Freedmen’s Bureau was created in 1865 to protect the rights of newly emancipated slaves. Later that year on December 6th the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified and prohibited slavery. In favor of African-Americans the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified which gave citizenship to former and born slaves. Two years later, the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified giving black Americans the right to vote. These are just a few things that African-Americans have fought long and hard for and have accomplished.

So we ask, what is Black History Month? Black History Month is a month not to remember the struggle but to remind us of the achievements. We celebrate to remind ourselves that anything is possible with hard work and dedication. No matter what your background, race, where you grew up, or your religion, you can do anything.

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