Black History Month began as “Negro History Week,” a name chosen in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson. Woodson didn’t like that so many textbooks and other historical texts played down or simply ignored the contributions made by black figures. So, along with his Association for the Study of Negro Life and History—later the Association for the Study of African American Life and History—Woodson earmarked the second week in February to raise awareness of these stories.
Woodson chose that week specifically because it covered the birthdays of Frederick Douglass (February 14) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12). The publicity that followed led many mayors and college campuses to recognize the week. Over the years, the growth of support allowed the observance to last the entire month.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford made Black History Month official, saying that he was urging everyone to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”