"If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition. It becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world and it stands in danger of being exterminated."
These are the profound words of Dr. Carter Woodson.
Dr. Woodson was part of a group that founded what is now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) whose purpose was to promote the study of black history and celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans.
In 1926, Woodson and the ASALH launched Negro History Week to create awareness and help school systems coordinate their focus on the topic. Throughout the following decades, cities across the United States issued proclamations each year recognizing the second week of February as Negro History Week.
With the growing awareness of black identity and the Civil Rights Movement, Negro History Week evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month as a national observance. Since then, Black History Month has been celebrated in February around the country.
In his message declaring the national observance, President Ford said, "We can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."
I am fascinated that the idea of Black History Month began on college campuses. I truly believe that shows the impact campuses like our own have on society. We have a role to educate and inspire and to foster a sense of belonging for all people regardless of race, gender, background or ethnicity.
In celebrating Black History Month, we must honor the contribution of historic leaders of the Black community that have paved the way for us here at the University of Kentucky. We must create awareness of the significance of our actions and how they influence those around us. We must give citizens of all races the opportunity to understand and learn about a past and a people of which they may have little awareness.
I invite you to join organizations and offices across campus participating in events highlighting Black History Month. A list of campus events celebrating Black History Month can be found here.
At the University of Kentucky, we are striving each day — in ways profound and in small steps of progress — to create legacy of inclusiveness and belonging that we all will look back on as our own “worthwhile tradition.”
We can create that history together.