The Early Years of Negro History Week, 1926-1950

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Book Chapter

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Histories of Social Studies and Race: 1865-2000


In February 1926, a broad collection of schools and communities in the United States celebrated Negro History Week for the first time. For the next 50 years, Negro History Week continued to grow in scope and to develop as a launching pad for other initiatives designed to popularize the study of African American history. In 1976, as the United States commemorated its bicentennial, Negro History Week expanded to Afro-American History Month. Since then, each February, schools around the country have continued to recognize an annual celebration of what is now called Black History Month. Like other "set-aside" months (for example, Women's History Month), Black History Month has its share of supporters and detractors. Its advocates do not consider Black History Month an end in itself; they continue to work toward the goal of a social studies curriculum that fully integrates Black history within courses taught throughout the year. Carter G. Woodson, the educator and historian who first developed the idea of Negro History Week in 1926, spent much of his professional life working toward this same goal. In this chapter, I explore the early years of Negro History Week and examine both Woodson's rationale for initiative as well as his vision for its implementation as a platform to serve more far-reaching curricular goals.


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