The story of Black History Month

The story of Black History Month

Hill Air Force Base – February is Black History Month throughout the United States, but do you know the origins? 

Carter G. Woodson, a celebrated Harvard trained historian, advocated for a special program within school districts in the 1920s to encourage the study of African-American history and achievements in an attempt to transform race relations. 

His vision became reality and Negro History and Literature Week was instituted the second week of February to honor the births of President Abraham Lincoln (born Fe. 12), who abolished slavery, and Frederick Douglass (born Feb. 14), a noted abolitionist and first man of color to hold a high U.S. government rank. 

 “Woodson chose February for reasons of reform,” said Daryl Michael Scott, professor of history at Howard University and vice president of Program for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, “more importantly, he chose them for reasons of tradition. Since Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, the black community, along with other Republicans, had been celebrating the fallen President’s birthday. And since the late 1890s, black communities across the country had been celebrating Douglass’.” 

Scott said Woodson was well aware of the pre-existing celebrations and built Negro History Week around days traditionally commemorating the black past. Scott said Woodson was not trying to create a new tradition; he was trying to increase his chance of success by asking the public to extend their study of black history. 

The celebration was changed to Negro Achievement Week and later to Black History Week. Black History Week was expanded and renamed Black History Month 50 years later. In 1976, as part of the United States Bicentennial, the expansion was officially acknowledged by the oval office and has been every year since by each sitting president. 

“In celebrating Black History Month, we can take satisfaction from this recent progress in the realization of the ideals envisioned by our Founding Fathers,” remarked President Gerald Ford, “but, even more than this, we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often-neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Woodson’s legacy continues even within the United States Air Force. While it is natural to define the Air Force in terms of its aircraft, missiles or satellites, the service’s unmatched capabilities exist only and precisely because of the imagination, innovation, and dedication of its people. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the most famous African-American unit of World War II; the 332nd Fighter Group manned by the Tuskegee Airmen. The 99th Fighter Squadron formed March 22, 1941, entered combat in North Africa and by May 1945 the 332nd Fighter Group, consisting of the 99th, 100th, 301st and the 302nd Fighter Squadrons, had established an outstanding combat record. 

The Department of Defense encourages special observances during cultural heritage months to enhance cross-cultural and cross-gender awareness and promote harmony, pride, teamwork, and esprit de corps among military members, their families, and the civilian workforce. 

Traditionally, the African American Heritage Committee at Hill AFB holds special observance activities that are open to both the base population and surrounding Utah communities. The activities are designed to recognize the continuous contributions of African-Americans to American culture and increase awareness, mutual respect and understanding in the community.

The 2016 Black History Month theme is “Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African-American Memories.” This year’s activities at Hill AFB are as follows:

• Feb. 8, 7:30 a.m.-3 pm: Heath & Wellness Screening at Warrior Fitness Center

• Feb. 17, 24; 9 a.m.: Book reading at the Child Development Center (CDC)

• Feb. 27, 6 p.m.: Gospel Extravaganza at Second Baptist Church, 227 27th St., Ogden

We look forward to seeing you at one or all of our events. If you have any questions please contact the 2015-2016 AAHC Chair, Ms. Jamila Caraway at 586-8051 or by email Jamila.Caraway@us.af.mil.

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