What is Black History Month?

What is Black History Month?

Black History Month is held each year spanning the entire month of February. It is celebrated in the United States, Canada, and many other countries around the world. While Black History Month started out as a week-long celebration, it has now extended to the whole month leaving ample room for celebration.

During Black History Month, it is important to take time to honor black historical figures who have made a huge impact on how our lives are today. For example, Carter G. Woodson was the one to start the tradition of celebrating and honoring the contributions of Black people when he launched Negro History Week in 1925. It became a big hit and spread throughout the nation leading to the month-long extension (“Fred Hampton”). 

When asking around about Black History Month, you’ll get different answers as to what it means to certain people. Daniel Yeager, a junior psychology major at SNU, has given his thoughts on the event, saying, “I see it as learning from past shortcomings and successes, specifically in the Black community, and growing from that.” When asked if he had any historical figures that he looked up to, he stated that he admired Muhammad Ali and Fred Hampton for being activists and unifying the people. 

Muhammad Ali was a famous and loved professional boxer. He received the nickname “The Greatest” for being such a powerhouse, but he was more than just that. He had many different roles when it came to making a change (“Muhammad Ali”).  He participated in the fight for civil rights, making him a cultural force to be reckoned with. He retired from boxing in 1981, putting the rest of his attention to his religion, philanthropy, and activism. Similarly, Fred Hampton did not just participate in the civil rights movement; he was a leader as well as the deputy chairman of the Black Panther Party and chair of the Illinois Chapter, forming the first Rainbow Coalition (an anti-racist organization) in Illinois. The group went on to help against poverty, racism, police brutality, and substandard housing (Mathias; “Fred Hampton”). 

Darius Petties, a junior international business major, gave his perspective on Black History Month as well, stating, “Black History Month is impactful; something that represents the rich history of black people. Just remembering the history of what we have gone through and overcome is important.” Darius has claimed Paul Robeson to be the person he admires as a historical figure. 

Paul Leroy Robeson was a musician, film and stage actor, football player, and activist who was known for his activism and political views. Fascism during the Spanish Civil War is what turned him into a political activist. 1937 was when he used his performances to support the Republican cause and war refugees. He also permanently changed his delivery of “Ol’ Man River,” turning it into a hymn of determined defiance. 

Black History Month is a time of remembering and also looking to the future. It is a time to honor and nourish the lives of past Black activists and the current Black community. Spend some time this month to think about any Black historical figures or people in your life who you admire and be sure to honor and thank them. As we go through the month of February, we hope you learn something new and begin to appreciate the importance of this month.


Photo by Amira Cooper-Stennis


Works Cited

“Fred Hampton.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Feb. 2024, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Hampton. Accessed 6 Feb. 2024.

Matthias, Meg. “Fred Hampton”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 24 Jan. 2024, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Fred-Hampton. Accessed 6 February 2024.

“Muhammad Ali.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Feb. 2024, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_Ali. Accessed 6 Feb. 2024.

“Paul Robeson.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Feb. 2024, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Robeson. Accessed 6 Feb. 2024.

Thornton, J., & Otto, M. (n.d.). Black history month. Black History Month 2024. https://www.blackhistorymonth.gov/About.html