Reflecting on Black History Month

February is Black History Month, or National African American History Month. It is an annual celebration of African Americans’ accomplishments. The celebration acknowledges the history of the community and its growth. Harlem, which had seen a dramatic increase of African Americans starting in 1904, has gone through immense periods of growth and development to become the cultural, business, and residential hub it is today. The Harlem Arts Festival aims to celebrate the cultural and historically rich traditions of the communities in Harlem, looking at how the past has grown into a vibrant present.

Black History Month was first iterated as Negro History Week in 1925. African American historian Carter G. Woodson conceived the week as recognition of the contributions African Americans had hereto made to society. The first Negro History Week took occurred in February 1926. The month shares both the birthdays of two prominent figures in the advancement of African Americans—Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford mandated that the originally week-long celebration was to be extended to a month. Prefaced by the developments of the Civil Rights movement and rising awareness of black history, Black History Month became a celebration of a community deeply rooted in the American narrative. Black History Month February 2012 specifically honors African American women and their accomplishments. Looking back on the achievements of creative African American women throughout history, the Harlem Arts Festival is looking forward to celebrating the creativity of the community.

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