Black History Month was conceived and founded by historian Carter G. Woodson, according to Howard University's Daryl Michael Scott, writing in an essay for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. It made its first appearance as Negro History Week in 1925. The next year's celebration was chosen to occur during the week in February that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Warmly embraced, the event quickly become a central part of African-American life. The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial, by President Gerald R. Ford.
Today, Mount Holyoke celebrates Black History Month through programs that honor African and black American ancestry, recognizing the present and reflecting on the future. The events are coordinated by the Association of Pan-African Unity (APAU) student organization.
Black History Month 2019: “Sankofa: 400 Years of Black-ism”
Black History Month 2019 seeks to reflect upon a story 400 years in the making: In 1619, 16 enslaved Africans arrived on the shores of Virginia. So began a long journey of black subjugation, oppression and genocide. As we celebrate this month, we look back and ask: What have we done? How have our ancestors survived? What have we inherited? How are we propelling forward? How are we remixing and remaking our own way, for us and by us?
The Association of Pan African Unity (APAU) is also celebrating Black History Month with programs and events connected by the subtheme of “Black to the Future.” As a people whose history is often occluded or misconstrued, we recognize that our ancestors have been imagining futures for us since the first Africans arrived in this country. How can we use Afrofuturism — a cultural movement that mixes fantasy, history and science fiction with social awareness — to write, think, speak and create ourselves into the future? How can we use our past to imagine future realms for black life and expression?