Celebrated annually in the United States, Canada, in the United Kingdom and in Germany, Black History Month is also known as African-American History Month in the United States. The purpose of Black History Month is to remember both the important people of African descent and the important events in Black history.
Black History Month began as “Negro History Week,” which was created in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, a noted African American historian, scholar, educator, and publisher. Carter G. Woodson was also known as the father of Black History Month.
This week was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. The primary emphasis of Negro History Week was to coordinate with public school teachers of African-American communities to cooperatively teach black history during the week. Though the response was not so good at first but by 1930, nearly every state with a large African-American population was celebrating their history the second week of February.
By 1969 interest in black history had grown exponentially undoubtedly urged on by the work of Carter G. Woodson. The first Black History Month was suggested by the leaders of the Black United Students at Kent State University in Ohio in February 1969. The first Black History Month was then held there the next year in 1970. In 1976 Black History Month was officially recognized by the federal government and ushered in by then President Gerald Ford. 2015 now sees the 39th annual Black History Month since its federal recognition.
Black History Month revives a debate every year about the continued effectiveness and equality of having a particular month dedicated to the history of one race. Critics argue that Black History Month only emphasizes hero worship of black historical figures that are then relegated to the confines of one month a year. BBC radio commented, “Is it right for children to learn about history in a segregated way?” Iconic actor Morgan Freeman said “I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history”
Black History Month isn’t confined to the United States. In 1995, Canada began to observe Black History Month during the month of February also. In 2008 a bill came to officially recognize Black History Month in Canada. It was unanimously approved.The United Kingdom also celebrates Black History Month, but the month designated is October, not February.
Throughout history, many important personalities have shown their courage and proved themselves as the winner. Among them few are: Elston Gene Howard, a Black baseball catcher, signed a contract with the NY Yankees for $70,000 in 1929. It was the largest contract in history (at the time) in baseball history. The first African-American woman to win the Women’s Singles of the U.S. National Figure Skating Championship was Debi Thomas in 1986. On February 19th, 2002 Vonetta Flowers won the first Black gold medal in Winter Olympic Games’ history. Vonetta and her partner won the (women’s) inaugural two-person bobsled event. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. He was one of the most famous African-American Civil Rights Movement leaders. In 2009 Barack Obama became the first Black United States President.
Celebrating Black History Month
Over the years many black personalities like W.E.B. DuBois, James Baldwin and Maya Angelou have fearlessly addressed pressing issues in society such as education, identity, equality and civil rights, and also presented new ideas that have helped shape the world as we know it today.
For their dedicated effort, prophetic insights and creative output that include creating remarkable fiction and nonfiction, these men and women have received numerous awards and accolades, including the Nobel Prize.
In honor of these remarkable individuals and this great month, we've put together some powerful quotes from notable black writers you can share with friends and loved ones during this month of February, or any day. We hope the quotes are uplifting and motivational, and you will find nuggets of wisdom in them that can be a source of encouragement in your daily life. Enjoy.
W.E.B Dubois (African-American historian, activist and author)
"Herein lies the tragedy of the age: not that men are poor—all men know something of poverty; not that men are wicked—who is good? Not that men are ignorant—what is truth? Nay, but that men know so little of men."
Nikki Giovanni Jr. (African-American writer and educator)
“There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don’t expect you to save the world I do think it’s not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary and remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair and disrespect.”
Toni Morrison (African-American novelist and professor)
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
Sojourner Truth (African American human rights activist and poet)
“We do as much, we eat as much, we want as much.”
"It is the mind that makes the body."
Marcus Garvey (Jamaican political leader, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur and orator)
"Go to work! Go to work in the morn of a new creation... until you have... reached the height of self-progress, and from that pinnacle bestow upon the world a civilization of your own."
George Washington Carver (African-American educator, scientist and inventor)
“When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”
James Baldwin (African-American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet and social critic)
"Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
Marilyn Nelson (African-American poet, translator and children's book author)
"Miracles happen all the time. We're here, aren't we?"
Derek Walcott (St. Lucian poet and playwright)
… the truest writers are those who see language not as a linguistic process but as a living element….”
Nelson Mandela (Former President of South Africa)
"I do not deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation and oppression of my people by the whites."
Yaa Asantewaa (Queen Mother of Ejisu)
“Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king.”
“If it were in the brave days of, Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opolu Ware, chiefs would not sit down to see their king taken away without firing a shot.”
Kwame Nkrumah (Former President of Ghana)
"We face neither East nor West: we face forward."
"The best way of learning to be an independent sovereign state is to be an independent sovereign state."
"Freedom is not something that one people can bestow on another as a gift. Thy claim it as their own and none can keep it from them."
Dr. Sebi (World renowned herbal healer, pathologist, and Naturopathic healer)
"Work for a cause, not applause. Live Life to express, not to Impress. Don't strive to make your presence noticed, just make your Absence FELT."
Maya Angelou (African-American author and poet)
“You can only become accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”
Alice Walker (African-American author, poet and activist)
“Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn't matter. I'm not sure a bad person can write a good book.”
“If art doesn't make us better, then what on earth is it for?”
Langston Hughes (African-American poet, novelist and playwright)
“An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose.”
Audre Lorde (Caribbean-American poet and author)
“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”
Chinua Achebe (Nigerian novelist, poet and professor)
"The impatient idealist says: 'Give me a place to stand and I shall move the earth.' But such a place does not exist. We all have to stand on the earth itself and go with her at her pace."
Wole Soyinka (Nigerian writer, poet and playwright)
“I believe that the best learning process of any kind of craft is just to look at the work of others.”
“My horizon on humanity is enlarged by reading the writers of poems, seeing a painting, listening to some music, some opera, which has nothing at all to do with a volatile human condition or struggle or whatever. It enriches me as a human being.”
Rita Dove (African-American poet and author)
“There are times in life when, instead of complaining, you do something about your complaints.”
Booker T. Washington (African-American educator, author and orator)
"I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed."
"Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work."
Malidoma Patrice Somé (West African writer born in Dano, Burkina Faso)
"As long as we are not ourselves, we will try to be what other people are."
Alex Haley (African-American Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Roots")
"In my writing, as much as I could, I tried to find the good, and praise it"
"Beginning writers must appreciate the prerequisites if they hope to become writers. You pay your dues - which takes years."
"Anytime you see a turtle up on top of a fence post, you know he had some help."
Katherine Dunham (African-American dancer, choreographer, author, educator and social activist)
"I used to want the words "She tried" on my tombstone. Now I want "She did it."