At Unum, we honor Black History in the past and in the present. But Black History is not just about one month – it happens all year.
February is Black History Month (BHM), an annual recognition of the achievements of African Americans in U.S. history. As their contributions are woven into American society, it’s important that Black history is remembered whenever we think of American history. This year’s theme is “Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity.”
“Honoring our past and those who have paved the way for victories this country has realized is essential to the continued success of our nation and its citizens, particularly African Americans,” said LaTonya Lyons, director, NCE, and Race & Ethnicity ERG co-lead. “As we acknowledge and honor these people and events of times past, let it not be lost on us that we still have a mighty ways to go.”
In February, we focus on the We Are Unum tenet – A Willingness to Own It – highlighting our responsibility to defend those facing injustice and speaking the truth, even when it is difficult.
“Black History is such a beautiful part of who and what are as a people,” said Keysha Baker, supervisor, Unum US Benefits, and Race & Ethnicity Employee Resource Group member. “It’s embedded in the history of the world. We don’t just experience it during one particular month – we live it every single day!”
What is Black History Month?
In the early 20th century, Carter G. Woodson, an African American historian, scholar, educator, and publisher witnessed how Black people were underrepresented in books and conversations that shaped the study of American history. According to historians, African Americans were barely part of the story – a narrative Woodson knew was not true.
In 1915, he and Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. ASALH would promote studying Black history as a discipline and celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans.
In 1926, Woodson launched “Negro History Week” in February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The celebrations spread quickly throughout America, but the idea of expanding the week to a month did not come until several decades later.
By the mid-1960s, the most popular textbook for 8th grade U.S. history classes mentioned only two black people in the entire century since the Civil War, and the problem could no longer be ignored. Colleges and universities across the country transformed the week into Black History Month.
President Gerald Ford declared Black History Month a national observance in 1976. To learn more, visit the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the founders of Black History Month.