Since 1976, every United States president has observed Black History Month each February. This time is dedicated to celebrating African American heritage and the achievements of people of African descent.
Starting as a week-long celebration in the 1920s, Negro History Week and Black History Month have inspired numerous events and communities over the last century. Today, museums, college campuses, government agencies, and nationwide communities rally together to recognize contributions that people of African descent have made throughout American and world history.
How will you celebrate Black History Month this year? If you have African ancestors, it is the perfect time to honor your ancestors and to learn more about your African and African American heritage.
Search African Heritage Records
To celebrate Black History Month, FamilySearch has added 29 new record collections specifically containing information on individuals of African descent. Try finding your ancestors within these collections using the search form below!
There is a wealth of interesting facts about Black History Month. For example, February was chosen because it coincides with the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Did you know that every Black History Month has had a specific theme since 1976? The theme for 2020 is African Americans and the Vote.
Black History Month has inspired new clubs, college lectures, celebrations, and performances. There are bound to be local events near you, or you can simply take the time to learn about African American history.
Black History month isn’t just for black people; it is for everyone! Use this time to learn as much as you can about the positive contributions and legacies of many African Americans and of those of African descent. Or record and share your experiences today to expand a community of sharing and mutual understanding in the United States.
Despite the barriers in their way, many African American women have had a significant impact on culture and history. Women such as Ida B. Wells, Ella Jo Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, and many others have left their mark and changed the world for the better.
The first formal celebration of black history began in 1926 as Negro History Week. It was organized by Carter G. Woodson, a historian and the second African American to earn a doctorate degree from Harvard. Woodson felt it was important to highlight the lasting contributions of black men and women in society to motivate others to rise to their potential. He noted, “Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”
Black History Month provides a platform to recognize the adversity many have faced throughout history as well as to celebrate the many achievements of African Americans. As President Gerald Ford put it in 1976, Black History Month is a time to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Black History Month Calendar
FamilySearch and its partner, the International African American Museum (IAAM), are highlighting different African American record releases for every week of Black History Month. Check back every Monday to see the release of additional blog posts that give an overview of each of the following collections and how you can use them!
See a full schedule of the events below:
Latest posts by Thom Reed (see all)
- All about Black History Month - January 17, 2020
- New Freedmen’s Bureau Records Made Searchable through Ongoing Project - April 15, 2016
- African Americans Share Stories of Finding Ancestors in Freedmen’s Bureau Records - June 26, 2015