In 1926, a public school teacher, “Mr. Woodson,” initiated the first ever “Negro History Week” on February 7th to celebrate and raise awareness of Black history. Fifty years later in 1976, Afro-American professor Albert Broussard turned it into a month-long celebration that is now known as Black History Month. President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month that same year, calling 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.” For centuries, citizens of the African-American community were shamed, beaten, and taken as slaves. In the mid-1500’s, European mariners started bringing Africans to America as slaves. No matter how far one may go into a history textbook, Black history begins with slavery. This month, people across the globe recognize and celebrate the Black community and remember the people who eventually led them to freedom.
In 1849, an extraordinary woman named Harriet Tubman risked her life to escape her enslaved lifestyle and flee for the North. In 1850, she began coming back to her homeland to help others escape their enslaved lives as well. Over a ten-year span, Harriet Tubman made 19 trips back to the South and led over 300 Black slaves to freedom. She was the most well-known “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, where others just as brave as she led many other slaves to freedom as well.
During the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, Baptist Minister Martin Luther King Jr. made a speech that would make the world go quiet. King’s speech, “I Have a Dream,” motivated and inspired thousands of people across the nation, of all races. Unfortunately, he was also not liked by many people, and was shot five years later when he was standing on the second-floor balcony of a motel. During King’s funeral, a tape recording was displayed, explaining how he wanted to be remembered after his death. “I’d like someone to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others.”
Finally, there are many, many Black heroes that America has to thank; however, one stands out above all – Ruby Bridges. Bridges is famous for being the first ever African- American child to enter an all-white school. On November 14, 1960, at just the age of six, Ruby became the first African-American child to attend the all-white public William Franz Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was one of six Black children that passed a certain test and qualified to attend an all-white school. It was reported that Ruby’s first year she spent completely alone. She spent the months by herself in a classroom with one teacher, Barbara Henry. Angry mobs of parents shouted various threats at her, causing her to be guided to and from school by marshals for the next six months.
Black History Month is a celebration that lasts the entire month of February and will be around for a long time to come. Happy Black History Month!
This article originally appeared in SHS Today