This fact sheet links to authoritative information resources related to National African American History Month, which is also referred to as African American History Month and Black History Month. It is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to National African American History Month by providing links to legislation, CRS reports, sample speeches and remarks from the Congressional Record, and presidential proclamations and remarks. It also links to additional government web resources and selected advocacy, educational, cultural, and military, organizations.
National African American History Month, also referred to as African American History Month and popularly as Black History Month, is observed annually in February, in celebration of the achievements of black Americans. National African American History Month recognizes the central role of African Americans in U.S. history.
This fact sheet links to authoritative information resources on National African American History Month. It is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to National African American History Month by providing links to legislation, CRS reports, sample speeches and remarks from the Congressional Record, and presidential proclamations and remarks. It also links to additional government web resources and selected advocacy, educational, cultural, and military, organizations.
The origins of National African American History Month date back to 1926, when Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a noted scholar of black history, set aside time in February to recognize the heritage, achievements, and contributions of African Americans. Since 1976, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the organization founded by Dr. Woodson, has expanded the observance of Black History Week into a month-long celebration.
Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush's proclamations were calls to celebrate "National Black (Afro-American) History Month." In even earlier proclamations the words "African-American" and "black" were often interchanged. However, every President since Bill Clinton in 1996 has proclaimed February as National African American History Month.
Each year the national theme for the National African American History Month celebration is chosen by ASALH. The theme for 2020 is "African Americans and the Vote."
P.L. 99-244—In 1986, Congress officially recognized the month of February as Black (Afro-American) History Month.
The Congressional Research Service has prepared numerous reports that relate to African Americans. Some of these include the following:
CRS Report R45583, Membership of the 116th Congress: A Profile, by Jennifer E. Manning (see "African American Members")
CRS Report RL30378, African American Members of the U.S. Congress: 1870-2019, by Ida A. Brudnick and Jennifer E. Manning
CRS Report R43244, Women in Congress: Statistics and Brief Overview, by Jennifer E. Manning and Ida A. Brudnick (see "African American Women in Congress")
CRS Report R43626, The Voting Rights Act of 1965: Background and Overview, by Kevin J. Coleman
Elected officials often deliver speeches, make floor statements, issue press releases, or enter Extensions of Remarks into the Congressional Record to recognize federal holidays and observances. The following are some recent examples:
Representative Peter Visclosky, "Celebrating Black History Month," remarks in the Extension of Remarks, Congressional Record, vol. 165, no. 18 (January 29, 2019), p. E101.
Representative Glenn Thompson, "National African American History Month," remarks in the House of Representatives, Congressional Record, vol. 165, no. 37 (February 28, 2019), p. H2275-H2276.
Representative Will Hurd, "Unsung Heroes," Hurd on the Hill column (February 20, 2018).
Senator Tom Udall, "Udall Statement Celebrating Black History Month," press release (February 16, 2018).
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, "Commemorating Black History Month," remarks in the Extensions of Remarks, Congressional Record, vol. 164, no. 21 (February 2, 2018), pp. E130-E131.
Representative Ted Yoho, "African American History Month," remarks in the House of Representatives, Congressional Record, vol. 163, no. 35 (February 28, 2017), p. H1361.
Representative Adriano Espaillat, "Recognizing Black History Month," remarks in the Extension of Remarks, Congressional Record, vol. 163, no. 25 (February 13, 2017), p. E182.
Senator Dick Durbin, "Black History Month," remarks in the Senate, Congressional Record, vol. 163, no. 28 (February 16, 2017), pp. S1392-S1393.
Representative Evan Jenkins, "Honoring Dr. Carter G. Woodson," remarks in the Extension of Remarks, Congressional Record, vol. 163, no. 17 (February 1, 2017), p. E117.
One of the many uses of a presidential proclamation is to ceremoniously honor a group or call attention to certain issues or events. Some recent National African American History Month proclamations, from the White House website and the Compilation of Presidential Documents, include the following:
Presidential Proclamations—Donald J. Trump (2017- )
Presidential Proclamations—Barack H. Obama (2009-2016)
Presidential Proclamations—George W. Bush (2001-2008)
Presidential Proclamations—William J. Clinton (1996-2000)
Presidential proclamations and remarks from 1993 to the present are available through the govinfo service on the Government Publishing Office website. Earlier remarks (including selected audio and video clips) are available through The American Presidency Project, established by the University of California, Santa Barbara.
African American History Month (2018)—a joint effort by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Contains a rich guide to the exhibits, collections, audiovisual resources, and research and teaching guides on African American history and culture from their institutions.
African American Heritage Research (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) provides guides and online access to archival records relating to African American history. These records include manuscripts, videos, and photographs from the National Archives and presidential libraries.
Facts for Features: National African-American (Black) History Month, February 2020 (U.S. Census Bureau) contains collections of statistics from the Census Bureau's demographic and economic subject areas related to African Americans.
Spotlight on Statistics: Blacks in the Labor Force, February 2018 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) contains historical data and projections to provide an economic snapshot of Blacks or African Americans in the U.S. labor market. Presented in celebration of African American History Month.
Black Americans in Congress (History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives) contains "biographical profiles of former African-American Members of Congress, links to information about current black Members, essays on institutional and national events that shaped successive generations of African Americans in Congress, and images of each individual Member, supplemented by other historical photos." This website is based on the book Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established as part of the Smithsonian Institution on December 16, 2003, by the African American History and Culture Act (P.L. 108-184). A competition was held to determine the design of the building and the groundbreaking ceremony for the museum was on February 20, 2012. The purpose of the museum is to provide for the establishment of programs relating to African American life, art, and culture encompassing the periods of slavery; reconstruction; the Harlem renaissance; the civil rights movement; and other periods of African American history.
Information on the 2020 theme "African Americans and the Vote" is available on the following websites:
The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), Founders of Black History Month (in 1926, originally Negro History Week), carries forth the work of its founder, Dr. Carter G. Woodson. ASALH's mission is "to promote, research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community."
The Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University (DC) has one of the world's largest and most comprehensive repositories for the documentation of the history and culture of people of African descent in Africa, the Americas, and other parts of the world.
Archives of African American Music and Culture (AAAMC): one of the foremost research centers for the study of black music is Indiana University (Bloomington, IN). The AAAMC houses African American collections and history of religious, classical, blues, gospel, R&B, and hip hop music.