In 1976, during America’s bicentennial, President Gerald Ford called upon the public to honor the history and accomplishments of black Americans when he officially recognized February as Black History Month.
The origins of Black History Month can be traced to Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland. Woodson and Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, or ASNLH. This organization dedicated itself to researching and promoting the achievements of black Americans and others of African descent.
In 1926, the ASNLH sponsored a national Negro History Week and chose the second week of February for the celebration for a very specific reason. The week coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States who presided over the end of slavery, and Frederick Douglass, the famed former slave who rose to prominence as a social reformer, writer, orator, and statesman.
It’s important that we still celebrate it. This month gives us a chance to learn — or re-learn — the importance of blacks in history.
This area is rich in black history.
Just south of here is the Honey Springs Civil War Battlefield. There, the first major battle where African-Americans (First Kansas Colored Infantry) were given the opportunity to prove their fighting abilities.
Here in Muskogee, Bass Reeves was the first African American to receive a commission as a Deputy U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi River.
So take time and celebrate this month. Black History Month isn’t just a celebration of black history, but a celebration of American history.