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BLACK HISTORY MONTH BASICS F ebruary is Black History Month not only in the U.S., but in the United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands. Keep reading to learn more about Black History Month and celebrate important contributions of six notable African-Americans. IN AMERICA It started when Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-trained historian, wanted to raise awareness of African-American contributions to society. He founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which announced Negro History Week in 1925 and celebrated the first one in 1926. The week in February was chosen on purpose; it contained the birth anniversaries of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The 1960s brought social change and the Civil Rights Act, as well as an increased awareness of African-American contributions to culture. In 1976, the U.S. bicentennial, the week was expanded through the month of February. President Gerald R. Ford asked Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Since Ford, every American president has declared February Black History Month. Woodson’s group lives on, too, as the Association for the Study of African- Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable The founder of Chicago is a mysterious man. Not much is known about Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable’s early life; he was born around 1745, possibly in Haiti, maybe in Canada. Maybe his father was a pirate and his mother an African slave. He may have been educated in France. But we know he founded Chicago and that, for years, he wasn’t recognized for it. Sometime in the 1780s, Du Sable and U.S. ARMY CORPS his family — he mar- OF ENGINEERS Ricki Stevenson, ried a Potawatomie woman and had chil- founder of Black Paris dren — settled in the Tours., speaks about CHICAGO area then known as Sable during a Black MAGAZINE History Month 2014 Eschecagou, near the The house built by event. mouth of the river. John Baptiste Pointe du Sable close to the He lived there off mouth of the Chicago and on for 20 years, River as it appeared enlarging his trading when owned by the post and holdings. In 1800, he sold his Kinzie family in the Chicago land to John Kinzie, a white MOSES ENGINEERING COMPANY, early 1800s. NEW YORK man. Kinzie was, for years, hailed as the A depiction of Pointe du Sable first settler of Chicago. Du Sable died in a plaza called Pioneer Court was built on One of the from A.T. Andreas 1884 book 1818 in Missouri. the site of the du Sable homestead, and most imHistory of Chicago. During the 1960s, as Americans realized in 1976, the same year African-American portant is more and more African-American contriHistory Month was federally declared, the the DuSable Museum of African-Amerbutions to the nation, du Sable started to homesite was named a National Historic ican History, founded in 1961, located get the credit he deserved. Landmark. in Washington Park. It is the oldest, and A 1963 article in Ebony magazine lamentSince then, a number of bridges, roads before the National African-American ed that du Sable was not yet recognized in and other Chicago-area places and inMuseum in Washington, D.C., largest Chicago, pointing out that his home was stitutions have been named for du Sable. museum of African-American culture. known as the Kinzie homestead. In 1965, American Life and History. OUTSIDE THE U.S. The United Kingdom celebrated Black History Month for the first time in 1987 through the leadership of Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo. Canada recognized February as Black History Month in 1995 with a motion by the House of Commons. Mary McLeod Bethune The fifteenth of 17 children born to former slaves, Mary McLeod Bethune grew up to be the founder of a college, a senior official in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration, and present at the founding of the United Nations. Bethune grew up in South Carolina and was educated in segregated schools. In 1904, she founded the Daytona Educational and Industrial School for Negro Girls in Florida, which eventually became Bethune-Cookman College. She also served as president of the National Association of Colored Women and founded the National Council of Negro Women. From 1936 to 1944, Bethune was director of Negro Affairs in the National Youth Administration in the Roosevelt administration. She was part of the Black Cabinet, a group of African-American officials who lobbied for advancement for African-Americans. Bethune worked for equal pay for African-American federal workers, African-American participation in New Deal programs, ending lynching and stopping the poll tax, and was a regular speaker at conferences on racial issues. She also served as president of Carter G. Woodson’s Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. During World War II, Bethune was special assistant to the secretary of war and assistant director of the Women’s Army Corps. She left federal service in 1944 but was still president of the National Council of Negro Women, in which capacity she attended the founding conference of the United Nations. Bethune died in 1955. Schools around the country are named for Bethune, and the college she founded and which bears her name still exists. A statue of her was erected in Washington, D.C, in 1974, and a crater on Venus is named in her honor. The National Park Service maintains one of her residences, 1318 Vermont Ave., Washington, D.C., as a historic site.