Black History Month's first iteration was Negro History Week, created in February 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, known as the "father of Black history."
“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”
― Carter G. Woodson
Why is Black History Month in February?
February was chosen by Woodson for the week-long observance as it coincides with the birthdates of both former US President Abraham Lincoln and social reformer Frederick Douglass. Both men played a significant role in helping to end slavery.
How did Black History Month become a national month of celebration?
By the late 1960s, thanks in part to the civil-rights movement and a growing awareness of Black identity, Negro History Week was celebrated by mayors in cities across the country. Eventually, the event evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History month. In his speech, 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”.
Since his administration, every American president has recognized Black History Month and its mission. But it wasn't until Congress passed "National Black History Month" into law in 1986 that many in the country began to observe it formally. The law aimed to make all Americans "aware of this struggle for freedom and equal opportunity."
Why is Black History Month celebrated?
Initially, Black History Month was a way of teaching students and young people about Black and African-Americans' contributions. Such stories had been largely forgotten and were a neglected part of the national narrative.
Now, it's seen as a celebration of those who've impacted not just the country but the world with their activism and achievements. In the US, the month-long spotlight during February is an opportunity for people to engage with Black histories, go beyond discussions of racism and slavery, and highlight Black leaders and accomplishments.
Below are some works of literature written by black authors who have been very influential or powerful in the world of English literature.
Works of Literature
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart.
Akwaeke, Emezi. The Death of Vivek Oji.
Alexander, Kwame. The Crossover, 2014.
Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Baldwin, James. Notes of a Native Son.
Baszile, Natalie. Queen Sugar.
Bennett, Brit. The Vanishing Half.
Brown, Claude. Manchild in the Promised Land.
Brown, Jericho. The Tradition.
Butler, Octavia. The Parable of the Sower.
Cotton, Tressie McMillan. Thick and Other Essays.
Danticat, Edwidge. Krik? Krak!
Douglass, Frederick. My Bondage and My Freedom.
Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man.
Ewing, Eve. 1919.
Gay, Roxane. Difficult Women.
Gyasi, Yaa. Homegoing.. Transcendent Kingdom.
Haley, Alex. Roots.
Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun.
Hughes, Langston. The Collected Poems.
Iromuanya, Julie. Mr. and Mrs. Doctor.
Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
Jemisin, N.K. The Fifth Season.
Jones, Edward P. The Known World.
Harper, Frances E.W. Iola Leroy. 1892.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Kidd, Sue Monk, Invention of Wings.
Lorde, Audre. The Black Unicorn.
Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. Beloved. God Bless the Child.
Nottage, Lynn. Ruined.
Obama, Michelle. Becoming.
Packer, ZZ. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere.
Reynolds, Jason. A Long Way Down, 2017.
Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give, 2017.
Thompson-Spires, Nafissa. Heads of the Colored People.
Walker, Alice. The Color Purple.
Ward, Jesmyn. Sing, Unburied, Sing.
Washington, Booker T. Up from Slavery.
Wheatley, Phillis. Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.
Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad.
Wilson, August. The Gem of the Ocean.
Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming, 2014.
Wright, Richard. Black Boy.
Wright, Richard. Native Son.
You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book. -Psalm 56:8