African American/Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role African Americans played in U.S. history.
The story of this annual celebration actually dates back to 1915, half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. That September, the Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by African Americans. Known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the group sponsored the first weeklong event 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.
In the decades the followed, mayors of cities across the country began issuing proclamations to recognize an annual event that would highlight the accomplishments of African Americans. By the late 1960s, thanks in part to the Civil Rights Movement, the weeklong observation evolved into a month long event at many college campuses. President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized African American/Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments” of African Americans in shaping both the history and future of our great nation. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as African American/Black History Month.
The 2013 theme for African American/Black History Month is “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.” This year’s theme addresses a complex topic in that 2013 marks the 150th and 50th year anniversaries, respectively, of two parallel events – President Abraham Lincoln’s enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and, a full century later, the March on Washington in 1963.
Enriching our understanding of African American history serves to broaden our understanding of our nation’s history. We should embrace this time as a celebration of the great diversity of the American landscape and understand that diversity is what essential to keeping the strength of our nation. Throughout this month, we look to recognize and celebrate the dedicated service and contributions of African Americans, both past and present. We will host an African American/Black History Luncheon on 13 February at Romenick Hall and look forward to everyone’s participation in this great celebration and event. Attached is the tri-signed letter from Secretary of the Army, Army Chief of Staff, and Sergeant Major of the Army recognizing the importance of African American/Black History Month.
Peter E. Dargle
USAG Fort A.P. Hill Commander