It all started with one week in 1926, when one organization chose the second week of February to promote the achievements by black Americans and other people of African descent.
That week, selected to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, went on to become an entire month: the month of February, to be specific.
Now, schools and communities nationwide are known to organize local celebrations, establish history lessons and events, and host performances and lectures.
And that's all thanks to the efforts of Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland, who founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. It was September 1915 -- half a century after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the U.S. -- when Woodson and Moorland founded the group, which eventually sponsored that Negro History Week, as it was called, in 1926, according to history.com.
That organization still exists today, although it's now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
So to summarize: two men had a group, which had a week, which led to a month.
Black History Month is now held every year to celebrate the achievements by African Americans. It's also a time for recognizing the central role of blacks in U.S. history, history.com points out.
Since 1976, when then-President Gerald Ford officially recognized the month, every U.S. president has designated February as Black History Month. Other countries devote a month to the cause as well, although it's not always February.
It was the civil rights movement that helped evolve the week from one of "negro history," as it was referred, to a full Black History Month. Awareness largely spread on college campuses, according to published reports.
When Ford made his announcement in 1976, he called upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
And there you have it.