February is a good month to celebrate African American History Month. The observation created by Carter G. Woodson in 1915, after he attended a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the U.S. The 1915 celebration lasted for three weeks and included a variety of exhibits depicting the history of African Americans. In response, Woodson founded what is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. In 1924, Woodson’s fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, created “Negro Achievement Week.” In 1926, Woodson’s Association for the Study of African American Life and History designated the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” They chose that week because it encompasses the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass (February 12 and 14, respectively).
In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford officially declared February “Black History Month,” urging the nation to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Each president since then has recognized African American History Month.
The 2020 African American History Month commemorate several important events: this year marks the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment. Passed by Congress February 26, 1869, and ratified February 3, 1870, the 15th amendment to the Constitution granted African American men the right to vote. (This year will also be the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.) It is also the 60th anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins, an important part of the Civil Rights Movement, which occurred from February to July 1960.
More importantly for baseball fans, on February 13th we will mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro National League. On that date in 1920, Rube Foster invited a group of independent African American baseball team owners to a meeting in Kansas City, Missouri. There is more to come as we approach this important anniversary.
Happy African American History Month!