The Origins of Black History Month

What we now call Black History Month was originated in 1926 by Carter Godwin Woodson as
Negro History Week. The month of February was selected in deference to Frederick Douglass
and Abraham Lincoln who were both born in that month.

The son of a slave, Carter G. Woodson was born in New Canton, Virginia on December 19,
1875. He began high school at the age of 20 and then proceeded to study at Berea College,
the University of Chicago, the Sorbonne, and Harvard University, where he earned a Ph.D. in

Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 to
train Black historians and to collect, preserve, and publish documents on Black life and Black
people. He also founded the Journal of Negro History (1916), Associated Publishers (1922),
and the Negro Bulletin (1937). Woodson spent his life working to educate all people about the
vast contributions made by Black men and women throughout history. Mr. Woodson died on
April 3, 1950 and Black History Month is his legacy.

Carter G. Woodson, however, would be sad to know that out of all the hundreds of Black men
and women who produced so many substantial inventions (from the development of crop
rotation, the traffic light, the mail box, gas mask, fountain pen, typewriter, telegraph, golf tee,
automatic gear shift, commode toilet--- to the method of dry cleaning clothes, the electric lamp,
and the automatic car coupler and air brake for the railroad) benefiting this country, only four
Black inventors have been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio.

During the last four years, the Patent and Trademark Office has been working closely with the
National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation to rectify this situation and honor the true story of
Black History.

The four black inventors inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame are:

George Washington Carver - Inducted in 1990
Percy Lavon Julian - Inducted in 1990
Mark Dean - Inducted in 1997
James E. West - Inducted in 1999
Continue with >>> Black Inventors A to Z
Text By Frankie Cox for the United States Patent and Trademark Office
Photo Credit Carter Godwin Woodson ©Oak Ridge National Laboratory