In 1915, Carter Godwin Woodson--American historian, author, and journalist, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), which exists today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). This was borne out of the desire to disseminate information about black life, history, culture, and contributions made to the global community, and we are encouraged to celebrate all year round.
In 1926, Woodson and the ASNLH launched Negro History Week during the second week of February, inspired by the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass (2/12 and 2/14, respectively). In 1975, President Ford, urged Americans to observe Black History Week, and in 1976, the ASALH expanded from promoting Black History Week to Black History Month, and in that same year President Ford issued a Message on the Observance of Black History Month. In 1986, Congress passed public law 99-244 (PDF, 142 KB), designating February 1986 as "National Black (Afro-American) History Month." Presidential proclamations were issued by Ronald Regan (1986) and Bill Clinton (1996), and have been issued by every president since.
This year, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) has chosen the theme of Black Migrations which: "emphasizes the movement of people of African descent to new destinations and subsequently to new social realities," with an emphasis on migrations occurring in the twentieth century through today. In the early 1900s, African Americans migrated from farms to cities, from the South outwards to the Northeast, West, & Midwest; from the Carribbean to the U.S.; and from the U.S. to Africa and European cities, such as Paris and London at the conclusion of World Wars I and II.
"Such migrations resulted in a more diverse and stratified interracial and intra-racial urban population amid a changing social milieu, such as the rise of the Garvey movement in New York, Detroit, and New Orleans; the emergence of both black industrial workers and black entrepreneurs; the growing number and variety of urban churches and new religions; new music forms like ragtime, blues, and jazz; white backlash as in the Red Summer of 1919; the blossoming of visual and literary arts, as in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Paris in the 1910s and 1920s. The theme Black Migrations equally lends itself to the exploration of the century’s later decades from spatial and social perspectives, with attention to “new” African Americans because of the burgeoning African and Caribbean population in the US; Northern African Americans’ return to the South; racial suburbanization; inner-city hyperghettoization; health and environment; civil rights and protest activism; electoral politics; mass incarceration; and dynamic cultural production.