February is Black History Month


Month long calendar for all events related to Black History Month at Eastern Illinois Universtiy. Photo retrieved from EIU.

Darrius Frazier, Archivist

Black History Month is celebrated in Feb. in both the United States and Canada. Black History Month was created by historian, Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Woodson was among one of the first scholars to study the history of the African diaspora, including African-American history. 

In Feb. 1926, as a precursor to Black History Month, Woodson launched Negro History Week in Feb. to coincide with the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass to highlight the progress made for African-Americans in this country. Woodson came up with the concept of Negro History Week because he felt that American society as a whole was not appreciating the contributions that African-Americans made in the United States. For his efforts, Woodson is considered by many historians “The Father of Black History Month.”

Throughout the following decades leading up to the 1970s, Negro History Week grew in popularity. Despite the death of Woodson due to a heart attack in 1950, there were plans to expand the concept of Negro History Week to a month-long celebration. It culminated in 1970 when Kent State University (KSU) became the first university to celebrate Black History Month from Jan. 2 to Feb. 28 due to the efforts of African-American educators in Ohio as well as African-American students at KSU. 

As a result, many high schools and colleges across the nation along with African-American culture and community centers pushed to make the celebration happen. In 1976, during the United States Bicentennial, the 200 year celebration of the United States, President Gerald Ford recognized Feb. as Black History Month. President Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Recently, Eastern Illinois University (EIU), has celebrated its 35th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. March on campus as part of the celebration of Black History Month on Jan. 17. Dr. King is the only private citizen in the United States to have a holiday celebrated in his honor, which is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day (also known as MLK Day). It has been celebrated every third Monday in Jan. when President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1986. It was officially celebrated by all 50 states in the union in 2000. 

In celebration of Black History Month, EIU has a host of different events that is available for not only for the EIU community but also for anyone living in or visiting Coles County can partake in the activities. Meanwhile at Lake Land College (LLC), Kim Hunter, Director for the Student Success Services Center, and Lisa Shumard-Shelton, Director of Student Life, planned events for Black History Month. Ms. Hunter mentioned, “There would be a Black History Bingo with Cedric sponsored by the Student Activity Board, which will be a virtual event with prizes. All month long in the Learning Resource Center there will be a display of books by and about prominent Black authors. Furthermore, throughout the month of February, the Lake Land College homepage will feature prominent African-Americans from Coles County.”

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