In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson instituted the first week-long celebration to raise awareness of African-Americans' contributions to history. Prior to this time, little information could be found regarding African-American history. Important achievements were left out of history books, and there was a general misconception that African-Americans had made little contribution to U.S. society. Fifty years later, the week became a month, and today, February is celebrated as African-American History Month. The month of February was chosen because it celebrates the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, both of whom dramatically affected the lives of African-Americans. Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) was a writer, lecturer, editor, and civil rights activist who escaped slavery at age 21 and went on to campaign for the abolition of slavery, establish a newspaper and hold the Office of Minister to Haiti. He was a major voice in the anti-slavery/civil rights movements of his time. Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), as the sixteenth president of the United States, issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, thereby declaring that all slaves within the Confederacy would be permanently freed. Each year, the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, founded by Dr. Woodson, sets the theme for the month. Learn more about
Black History Month.