What we now call Black History Month started in 1926 as “Negro History Week.” Carter Godwin Woodson, an NAACP leader (the NAACP celebrated its 100th anniversary in January 2009), was instrumental in getting the official month-long celebration recognized by Congress.
The month of February was selected because both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, champions of the struggle for African American equality, were born in that month.
Here are excerpts from the words of President Obama recognizing the observance of Black History Month:
Nearly 100 years after the Civil War, African Americans still faced daunting challenges and indignities. Widespread racial prejudice inhibited their opportunities, and institutional discrimination such as ‘black codes’ and Jim Crow laws denied them full citizenship rights. Despite these seemingly impossible barriers, pioneering African Americans blazed trails for themselves and their children. They became skilled workers and professionals. They purchased land, and a new generation of black entrepreneurs founded banks, educational institutions, newspapers, hospitals, and businesses of all kinds.
This month, we recognize the courage and tenacity of so many hard-working Americans whose legacies are woven into the fabric of our Nation. We are heirs to their extraordinary progress. Racial prejudice is no longer the steepest barrier to opportunity for most African Americans, yet substantial obstacles remain in the remnants of past discrimination. Structural inequalities—from disparities in education and health care to the vicious cycle of poverty—still pose enormous hurdles for black communities across America.
Overcoming today’s challenges will require the same dedication and sense of urgency that enabled past generations of African Americans to rise above the injustices of their time. That is why my Administration is laying a new foundation for long-term economic growth that helps more than just a privileged few.
SIRS Issues Researcher provides a variety of Leading Issues that directly impact African Americans. Assign students to research either a pro or con position on one of the issues listed below.
Students should cite at least three resources in addressing the Pro or Con essential questions for the selected issue.
Each of these issues is one of many that continues to impact African Americans to a greater extent than mainstream Americans. The pathfinders below are all accessed by first clicking SIRS Issues Researcher link in SIRS Knowledge Source, then VISUAL BROWSE.
#1: Click School, Family, and Youth icon > Family > Single Parents
#2: Click School, Family, and Youth icon > Alternative Education > School Vouchers
#3: Click Economics, Business, and Law icon > Criminal Justice > Discrimination in Criminal Justice Administration
ProQuest also provides another 21st Century skills model for students to demonstrate what they have learned through their research: A mini-debate format, which can be completed in roughly three class periods.