Real Possibilities

February 12-18, 2018

The history of Black History Month


By Nan Selz

Executive Council, AARP Arkansas


The tradition of paying tribute to black history began in the United States in 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History launched a weeklong event intended to encourage teaching black history in the public schools.  


The North Carolina, Delaware and West Virginia departments of education and the school systems in Baltimore and Washington D.C. participated. The event was scheduled in February because both Abraham Lincoln (1809) and Frederick Douglass (1818) were born in that month.


In 1969, the Black United Students at Kent State University in Ohio proposed expanding the celebration to a month. The university did so the following year. Under President Gerald Ford, the federal government officially recognized Black History Month in conjunction with the 1976 U.S. bicentennial celebration.


Black History Month is not only an American tradition.  In 1995, the Canadian Parliament established February as Black History Month. The United Kingdom began celebrating Black History Month in 1987 to salute the contributions of Africa and African people. The Initiative of Black People in Germany was begun in 1990.


Because AARP strives to meet the needs of ALL people 50+ and their families, the AARP website features a special page which is designed specifically to engage African American/Black members.  AARP Black Community is also on Facebook. The Facebook page celebrates African American culture, people, events, and history.


To access the Black Community page, go to  


  • Nan Selz
    Nan Selz