February is Black History Month

Black History Month 2023 celebrates “Black Resistance”

Black History Month has been celebrated annually in the United States in recent years. However, one man with an innovative idea about how the country viewed Black Americans made a difference in U.S. history.

The History

Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and creator of Negro History Week.

In February 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), announced “Negro History Week” during the second week of February.

Furthermore, according to the ASALH, “rather than focusing on two men, the black community, [Woodson] believed, should focus on the countless black men and women who had contributed to the advance of human civilization.”

Woodson selected the second week of February as it encompasses the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

It should be noted that both men were considered symbols of freedom in the United States by Black Americans.

By including both men’s birthdays, Woodson hoped to reform the separate celebrated holidays of two historical figures into the study of a great race.

Frederick Douglass - a symbol of freedom among Black Americans
A poster from Negro History Week in 1953. Held in New York City.

Woodson envisioned a celebration commemorating the past – asking the public to expand the study of black history instead of creating new traditions.

Subsequently, Negro History Week provided a time for African Americans to celebrate their racial pride and assess white America’s commitment to its ideals of freedom. Additionally, segregated primary and secondary schools celebrated the week with activities, plays, pageants, essay contests, concerts, and more.

In addition, the purpose of Negro History Week was to highlight the progress Black Americans have made since the destruction of slavery.

After the ASALH sought recognition from the federal government in the 1960s, Black History Month was first observed officially in 1976.

President Gerald Ford spoke about Woodson, ASALH, and the importance of Black history:

President Gerald Ford meets with ASALH leaders to discuss the importance of Black History Month

“In the Bicentennial year of our independence, we can review with admiration the impressive contributions of Black Americans to our national life….To help highlight these achievements, Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. We are grateful to him today for his initiative, and we are richer for the work of his organization”.

President Gerald Ford
A joint resolution from the 99th Congress declaring the month of February as National Black History Month in 1986.

The 99th United States Congress designated the month of February as “National Black History Month” in a joint resolution in 1986.

Importantly, “the foremost purpose of Black History Month is to make all Americans aware of this struggle for freedom and equal opportunity” in Presidential Proclamation 5443. This was also the first year Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday was celebrated as a national holiday.

The contributions of people of African descent to the United States are taught in schools and universities around the world because of the innovative work of Dr. Woodson and the ASALH.

The history of Black Americans is seen in television documentaries, at local museums, in literature, and heard in music.

A statue of Dr. Carter Woodson in Rhode Island.

Present Day

A photo from a The March for Jobs in 1963.

The ASALH announced “Black Resistance” as the 2023 theme of Black History Month.

The official statement released by the ASALH debuting this year’s theme explores how “African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings.”


Parkland Community Library has free resources for our patrons to learn more about Black history and 2023’s theme of Black Resistance.

Watch, Listen, Read Black stories with Hoopla


Check out Hoopla’s curated collection to celebrate Black History Month. Hoopla is available for Parkland School District and Northwestern residents only. Learn more about Hoopla.

Celebrate Black authors with Libby


Libby is free for all Parkland Community Library patrons. Borrow eBooks, audiobooks, and magazines.

Learn about Black freedom and the struggles in the U.S.

Black Freedom Struggle in the US

The Black Freedom Struggle features select primary source documents related to critical people and events in African American history. By centering on the experiences and perspectives of African Americans, it is hoped that this collection imbues the study of Black history with a deeper understanding of the humanity of people who have pursued the quest for freedom, and the significance of movements like Black Lives Matter.

Celebrate Black Stories - Book  Suggestions


Our librarians have hand-selected books for our Black History Month booklist. Find books available at PCL for readers of all ages.

Learn about Black History - Exhibits, discussions, and more

Black History Month

Black History Month is a government resource maintained by multiple organizations including the Library of Congress. Browse exhibits and collections featuring Black educators, artists, athletes, and civil rights leaders.

Learn about African Life and History - Events, membership, news

Association for the Study of African American Life and History

The ASALH was founded by Dr. Carter Woodson in 1915. The organization’s mission is to promote, research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community.

Learn more about Black history in the U.S.