I must relate that I once heard a comedian say during one of his comedy routine, “white folk we are hip to your game, giving us February for Black History Month, the shortest month of the year. I’m hip to your game.” Although the attentive audience laughed uproariously at the joke, I could only shake my head at the reality that very few people, regardless of race actually understand why Carter G. Woodson chose the month of February to begin Black History Month; it was actually a very strategic decision made to increase the chances that a celebration of Black History would not be a fleeting occurrence.
Carter G. Woodson, the individual who wrote the classic history manuscript, The Mis-Education of the Negro (if you have never read it, you should) displayed the value that he associated with a Black History Week/Month when told an audience that “We are going back to that beautiful history and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements.”
Woodson was no dummy; he realized that with the well-substantiated hatred routinely directed at African-Americans and erroneously held beliefs that their contributions to this nation were next to none getting the nation to adopt a celebration of Black History would be a difficult task. It was with this in mind that Carter G. Woodson chose to place Black History Week within the month of February.
February is the birth month of both Abraham Lincoln (February 12th) and Frederick Douglass (14th) two of the central figures in the African-American narrative. Lincoln is of course remembered as ‘the Great Emancipator’ and Frederick Douglass is undoubtedly the most notable Black Abolitionist this nation has ever known.
Particularly important to why February was selected by Woodson is the fact that the nation already had celebrations in place that honored the fallen President’s birthday and African-Americans already had an existing tradition of celebrating Douglass as well.
Carter G. Woodson was well aware of the pre-existing celebrations and made the wise chose of building ‘Negro History Week’ around the aforementioned traditions that were already in existence. Put simply, Woodson had made the brilliant decision to prod Americans in the direction of embracing an extension of pre-existing celebrations that in one way or another celebrated ‘Negro History’ without attempting to forge a new tradition.
This is the reason that the month of February was selected for Black History Month.
James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016