Who Chooses the Theme for Black History Month?

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The theme for 2015 is "A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture."

Every February, we celebrate Black History Month. Each year, the theme of the celebration changes. Who chooses the theme? This responsibility is given to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, which is the non-profit organization that founded this tradition in 1926.

What does this organization do? It plans activities for Black History Month, publishes the Journal of African American History, sponsors an annual convention for Africana life and history, among other things.

Why do we need a theme? According to the ASALH, themes help provide a fresh focus to the commemorations. Past themes have included:

1975 Fulfilling America's Promise: Black History Month

1981 Black History: Role Model for Youth

1991 Educating America: Black Universities and Colleges, Strengths and Crisis

2000 Heritage and Horizons:The African American Legacy and the Challenges for the 21st Century

This year the theme is "Carter G. Woodson and the Origins of Multiculturalism." Woodson, who has been called the "Father of Black History," established the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in 1915.

Why did they pick this year to celebrate his efforts? It was picked because Woodson is finally being honored by the American government. In 2003 Congress approved the purchase of his last home by the National Park Service. Last year, on February 26, 2006, the home was officially dedicated as the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site. On December 19, 2007, the National Park Service and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, jointly celebrated the 132 anniversary of Dr. Woodson's birth.

What is rarely discussed is Woodson's own hope that the practice of emphasizing the history of African Americans within the context of American history would not always be necessary. Originally, he set the length of observance as one week, covering February twelfth, which was Abraham Lincoln's birthday, and February fourteenth, which was the accepted birthday of Frederick Douglass. He meant to honor his belief that the history of African Americans was American history.

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