Black History Month History

Black History Month, formerly Negro History Week, originates from the week long celebration created by Carter G. Woodson in 1926. Woodson’s work in creating Negro History Week is supported by his expertise as a historian, educator, publisher and scholar. His contributions paved the way for the month-long celebration that began in 1976. February became the choice for celebration because of Frederick Douglass’ and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays.

Freedom Summer, also called the Mississippi Summer Project, was a voter registration drive in 1964 aimed to increase the number of registered black voters in Mississippi. Over 700 mostly white volunteers worked with black people in Mississippi to fight voter intimidation and discrimination at the polls. 

Freedom Summer volunteers endured  violent resistance from the Ku Klux Klan and local and state law enforcement. The resulting news coverage of the sometimes savage beatings, false arrests and even murder brought international attention to the civil rights movement. Ultimately, increased awareness created about voter discrimination helped pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.