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What is Black History Month? U.S. Public Law 99-244 states that “the observance of Black History Month provides opportunities for our Nation’s public schools, institutions of higher learning, and the public to gain a deeper understanding and knowledge of the many contributions of Black Americans to our country and the world.”

Dr. Carter G. Woodson, via Addison Norton Scurlock, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Who created Black History Month? In 1915, historian and author Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now known as ASALH). He wanted to draw attention to neglected events and people important to Black American history. In 1926, he launched “Negro History Week,” offering teachers and public institutions the chance to feature Black history in their schools and communities. Over time, this week grew into a monthlong observance.

President Abraham Lincoln, via Alexander Gardner, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Frederick Douglass, via George Kendall Warren, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Why does Black History Month take place in February? February includes the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, important members of the abolitionist movement in the 19th century. In fact, Black Americans had been celebrating Lincoln’s birthday as a holiday ever since his assassination in 1865. The first Negro History Week took place during the week that included both Lincoln’s and Douglass’ birthdays.

What are the Black History Month colors? Many posters, graphics, and other Black History Month images use four colors important to African American culture:

  • Red: The color of the blood shed in the fight for liberty and equality
  • Black: The color of “the noble and distinguished race to which we belong”
  • Green: The color of the luxuriant vegetation of Africa, the Motherland
  • Yellow: Represents optimism, justice, and equality for everyone

Do other countries celebrate Black History Month? Some other countries also celebrate Black History Month, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Panama, The Netherlands, Australia, and Costa Rica. However, they don’t all celebrate during the same month. For instance, the U.K. commemorates the event in October.

What is the Black History Month theme for 2024? Each year since nearly the beginning, the ASALH has declared a theme to help focus attention on key Black history and culture issues. In 2024, the theme is “African Americans and the Arts.”