How Black History Month Began
In 1926, Carter Godwin Woodson (1875–1950) organized the first Negro History Week celebration in the 2nd week of February. It is reported that Woodson chose this week to mark the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced black Americans, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
Woodson earned his Ph.D. in history from Harvard University in 1926, only the second African American to obtain this prestigious distinction from Harvard. Woodson became immensely distressed when he noticed Blacks were not represented in America’s history books, and when they were mentioned it was in a negative, inferior way. He established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and a year later founded the widely respected Journal of Negro History. The intellectual giant became known as “The Father of Black History.” In 1976, Negro History Week extended to a month, getting closer to Woodson’s goal of evolving into Negro History Year.
Americans celebrate Black History Month in various ways.
Communities organize service events. Schools plan special programs. Churches host
worship services and invite members to wear authentic African attire. Television
and social media outlets highlight prominent blacks who have made a significant
impact. Black history is significant because blacks contributed greatly to the
blessings we enjoy in the nation.
Why Celebrate When I’m Not Black
A question that comes to mind for some is why should I celebrate Black History Month when I am not black? America is a nation of diverse people and cultures. Blacks are one aspect of that diversity. Celebrating black history helps bring appreciation for the important roles Blacks have played and continue to play in our nation. Black history is part of American history.
Three Ways to Celebrate Black History
1. Study the Lives of Blacks
Learn about blacks who endured slavery and fought for freedom. Study the lives of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Booker T. Washington. Search the Internet to find out about blacks whose inventions make our lives better like George Washington Carver, Garrett Morgan and Madame C. J. Walker. Visit a Black history museum. Teach black history to your children and grandchildren. Read a book about blacks who pioneered in the medical field like Dr. Charles Drew, Dr. Mae Jemison and Dr. Ben Carson. Read about the accomplishments of Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, and Arthur Ashe. The list could go on and on with blacks who contributed to religion, politics, sports and music. Study the Lives of Blacks
2. Honor God in Your Thinking about Blacks
The myth that God cursed black people is completely false. It has been said, “Tell a lie long enough and it becomes the truth.” God did not curse black people. This false teaching has distorted the minds of Americans and caused blacks to face harsh discrimination. God created Black people in His image. He loves His creation and is honored when all ethnicities are loved and treated with respect, including black people.
3. Include Blacks in Your Circle of Friends
Being in community with people is the best way to get to know them. In order to understand black people, invite us to be a part of your everyday life. Celebrate differences as strengths that help us grow and learn from each other. Connecting with blacks must not become a mission project but one that will foster a deeper level of understanding, compassion and mutual respect. Building meaningful relationships with blacks builds trust, breaks down barriers and erases stereotypes. As Martin Luther King Jr. voiced, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
A Christian Response to Black History
As believers, we understand the Great Commandment is to love God and love our neighbor as we love ourselves, Matthew 22:36-40. The biblical mandate of loving your neighbor includes loving others who are of a different ethnicity than you. We must learn to live together socially but more importantly to worship together corporately. Racial and ethnic diversity demonstrate the glorious picture of our heavenly home, Revelation 7:9.
Our differences matter to God. He cares about our stories, past and present. God is taking our lives and weaving them together to make a beautiful single garment of destiny. One that is sewn together by the precious blood of Jesus, making our separate stories, one story—His story!
 All historical information on Carter G. Woodson: Western Journal of Black Studies 28 (2): 372–83.
Dr. James D. Noble is Assistant Professor of Practical Ministry at Clamp Divinity School at Anderson University. He is married to Redunda Noble and they have two sons and a daughter. Dr. Noble attended Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Cordova, TN where he earned both a Master of Divinity Degree and a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Dr. Noble has served as a pastor, associate pastor, church launch team member, and Vice President of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.