Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history.
Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history.
Among the notable figures often spotlighted during Black History Month are Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought for equal rights for Blacks during the 1950s and ’60s; Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American justice appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1967; Mae Jemison, who became the first female African-American astronaut to travel to space in 1992; and Barack Obama, who was elected the first-ever African-American president of the United States in 2008.
Why Is Black History Month Celebrated in February?
February is the birth month of two figures who loom large in the Black past: U.S. President Abraham Lincoln (born February 12), who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and African American abolitionist, author, and orator Frederick Douglass (born February 14). Since the deaths of Lincoln and Douglass (in 1865 and 1895, respectively), the Black community had celebrated their contributions to African American liberation and civil rights on their birthdays.
Since 1976, every American president has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme.
The Black History Month 2023 theme, “Black Resistance,” explores how “African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms and police killings,” since the nation’s earliest days.