For one month each year, Americans celebrate the biggest highlights in black history, from figures who ushered forth the civil rights movements to groups that fought against racial segregation.
Black History Month, celebrated annually in February, started in 1926 when black historian Carter G. Woodson and a committee on black history launched “Negro History Week.” This week was held the second week in February to coincide with the birthdays of former President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Fredrick Douglass.
The celebration commemorates the achievements of Black Americans who were increasingly being left out of the mainstream narrative.
“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history,” Woodson said of his implementation. The celebration later expanded to one month in length.
Eventually signed into law as a national holiday in 1976, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History designates a different theme for each black history month, ranging from black women in history, civil rights in America or forgotten areas of black history.
Here are five of the most important moments and figures in black history:
Rosa Parks Was Pretty Awesome. Here’s Why We Celebrate Her
Born Feb. 4, 1913, Parks is often referred to as the “mother of the civil rights movement” for refusing to move from her seat on the bus for a white man. Parks also fought for black women who were sexually assaulted by white men, hearing their stories and telling them to other civil rights organizations and newspapers to try to achieve justice for these women.
The Former Slave Who Became A Prominent Abolition Figure
Frederick Douglass, born a slave in 1818, eventually escaped his life in slavery at the age of 20, becoming one of the forceful voices against slavery in America. A self-educated man, his autobiography, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave“, became a crucial document in the abolitionist movement. Known for his biting speeches on slavery in America, Douglass quickly became a main figure in the black struggle for freedom.
Meet The Religious Group That First Protested Slavery In America
Germantown Quakers met in 1688 to write a formal petition against slavery in America. The 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery called on the community’s congregants to ban slavery, arguing that all slaves had the same rights as others.
The 6-Year-Old Girl Who Fought School Segregation
Ruby Bridges walked into an all white public school in the Sout as a six year-old girl, led by her mother and U.S. Marshall’s to protect her as people lined up along the sidewalk to throw objects at her. Bridges faced daily racism and taunts from white students who did not want a black student among them. Despite her struggles, Bridges kept attending the school.
The Woman Who Led Slaves To Freedom
Harriet Tubman, born a slave in 1820, escaped her life as a slave to become a leading figure in rescuing black people from a life in slavery. Tubman ushered hundreds of slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Later on in her life she worked as a spy for the Union Army.
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