Importance of African American History Month


African Americans have contributed to national and international landscapes with a focused vision and a myriad of achievements.

In 1926 Carter G. Woodson, a historian, author and educator, founded Negro History Week. At its inception the weeklong recognition of achievements made by peoples of African descent who lived in North America was created to honor former President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Carter G. Woodson Father of Black History Week

Born in New Canton, Virginia on December 19, 1875, Carter G. Woodson was a graduate of Harvard University. He graduated from the school in 1912 with a Ph.D. in History, making him the second African American to receive a doctorate degree from Harvard University. W. E. B. DuBois was the first African American to earn a doctorate degree from the university.

Prior to graduating from Harvard, Woodson attended the University of Chicago where he received his master’s degree. He received his undergraduate education from Berea College in Berea, Kentucky.

Carter G. Woodson taught internationally and domestically, including holding a professorship at Harvard University and serving as Dean of Howard University’s College of Liberal Arts and later as Dean at West Virginia State College. He also founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and authored the books The History of the Negro Church and The Mis-Education of the Negro.

Black History Month’s Beginning

Negro History Week was initially held the second week of February. It expanded into a month long celebration. At the time of its inception, accomplishments, however great, made by peoples from the African Diaspora were rarely acknowledged. Black History Month continues to serve as an effective tool to spotlight and learn about contributions that peoples from the African Diaspora have made, particularly the human landscape.

Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Fannie Lou Hamer, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, Duke Ellington, Maya Angelou, Charles Drew, Phillis Wheatley, Sojourner Truth, W. E. B. DuBois, John H. Johnson, Dr. Benjamin Carson, Hattie McDaniel and Carter G. Woodson are but a few of the great achievers of African American heritage. Many of these people worked as slaves themselves or were a direct descendant of a human being who was subjected to the tortuous cruelty of slavery.

Other great African Americans include Madam C. J. Walker, an independent business owner who was born Sarah Bleedlove on December 23, 1867. Madam C. J. Walker created her own hair product company and became America’s first self-made woman millionaire.

Great African American Inventors and Achievers

Garrett Morgan invented the traffic light and the gas mask. He was born Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. in Paris, Kentucky on March 4, 1877. As a teenager, Morgan moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and spent much of his life in the Buckeye state. While living in Cleveland, Morgan opened and operated his own repair shop. He passed away in Cleveland, Ohio on August 27, 1963.

Phillis Wheatley was born about 1953 in West Africa according to Women in History. She was kidnapped from her homeland and brought to America aboard a slave ship when she was only a child, not even ten years old. In 1773, when Phillis was in her early 20s, she published a book of her poetry titled “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.” Her works were widely received; she even read her poems before President George Washington who was a General in the Army at the time.

African American Invents More Than 400 Products

George Washington Carver invented more than 400 plant products. One of his more famous inventions, peanut butter, continues to be enjoyed today. George Washington Carver was born between 1860 and 1864 in Diamond Grove, Missouri.

The George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond, Missouri offers schools, children and adults activities to participate in so that they can learn more about the great inventor and explore their own creative abilities. The monument is operated by the United States National Park Service.

African Americans like Otis Boykins invented electronic controlling devices for computers, guided missiles and the pacemaker. As noted at Scholastic, Dr. Patricia Bath invented a form of eye surgery that has allowed many blind people to see. According to Biography, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams is credited with performing the first successful open heart surgery. Dr. Williams was born in Holllidaysburg, Pennsylvania in 1856 and was one of eight children. Dr. Williams founded America’s first integrated hospital, Provident Hospital which is located in Chicago, Illinois.

Resources on African Americans for Readers and Teachers

Readers, teachers, students, writers and community leaders can books about Carter G. Woodson and great African American inventors and achievers at local libraries and bookstores like, Borders, Barnes and Noble, and Waldenbooks. Retails stores such as Walmart, Best Buy, Kmart and Target also carry books like The History of the Negro Church , George Washington Carver In His Own Words, Narrative of Sojourner Truth or The Mis-Education of the Negro about great African American leaders, inventors and achievers.