"Black History Month has become one of the most celebrated cultural heritage months on the calendar", said LaGarrett J. King, an associate professor of social studies at the University of Missouri. "American public schools offer only sanitized versions of slavery and the civil rights movement, along with biographies of a handful of figures who are “palatable to white audiences.”
Understanding Black history and learning more about systemic racism is essential as the country faces the backlash to civil rights activism. Carter G. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History,” developed Black History Month, as he founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
Woodson chose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass, and President Abraham Lincoln. Feb. 1 is National Freedom Day, the anniversary of the approval of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in 1865.
Woodson believes it is essential for young African Americans to understand and be proud of their heritage.
“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history," he said.
Photos by Getty IMages