Unfortunately, America’s white-washed story of Black history that we learned in grade school only touches the surface of the plight of Black Americans. For many folks, the specifics of how Black History Month came to be and other prolific figures that played a part in its development aren’t as well known as they should be. As adults now though, we should all question the parts of history that we were taught and — more importantly — question why certain parts of it were left out. And that includes discovering the origin of Black History Month and why it’s celebrated during the shortest month of the year.

When was Black History Month created?

While the official title of “Black History Month” wasn’t created until February 1976, the celebration’s roots date back to the early 1900s. The month was created as a furthering of National Negro History Week — which took place during the second week of February 1926 and was created by Harvard-trained historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland. After the success of the week-long event, communities throughout the nation took note and began putting together their own events and celebrations to honor Black stories.

The nationwide celebrations for Black history, coupled with the Civil Rights Movement and Black Americans speaking up about receiving equality and freedom, spearheaded the week into a month-long event in 1969 taking place on college campuses throughout the country. And just a few years later in 1976, President Gerald Ford designated February as Black History Month.

Carter Goodwin Woodson (1875-1950) was an African American historian considered the "Father of Black History."

Carter Goodwin Woodson (1875-1950) was an African American historian considered the “Father of Black History.”© Bettmann

Why is Black History Month in February?

While longstanding hearsay has claimed that Black History Month is celebrated in February because it’s the shortest month of the year, that’s actually not true. After the deaths of then-presumed ally and 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and prominent activist, author, and public speaker Frederick Douglass (February 14), Woodson — through the then-titled Association for the Study of Life and History (ASNLH) — celebrated their contributions to civil rights and liberation on their respective birthdays.

As National Negro History Week landed in February to coincide with the above, President Ford declared the month to just be an official extension of the highly celebrated week. And thus, Black History Month was born.

President Lincoln and Frederick Douglass weren’t the only people meant to be honored during Black History month, though. As President Ford expressed to the public during the time of recognition, Black History Month was created to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

How can I learn more about historical Black figures?

Though Black History Month lands in the month of February, that doesn’t mean that it’s the only time you have to celebrate Black figures. Whether you’re a part of the Black community or are an ally to it, honoring the icons that have paved the way for humanity can be done whenever you’d like.

While you can absolutely Google any Black figure’s name that comes to mind and find an overflowing amount of information on them, if you’re looking for a place to start that will offer up names of figures you don’t quite know, entities like the NAACP, ASALH, the National Archivesthe official Black History Month website, and more are here to help. Likewise, a plethora of Black history documentaries and Black history movies are available for all ages to help spread more knowledge about Black culture, history, and prolific figures.