In February 1926, Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson inaugurated Negro History Week, which was designed to highlight and celebrate African American contributions to American history and life. He chose February because both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born in that month, hoping that remembering the births of these two men would improve race relations in the United States. A half century later, in the wake of post-World War II Third World decolonization, the Civil Rights Movement, and in honor of the bicentennial, Gerald R. Ford expanded the week to a month and nationalized February as Black History Month in 1976. The move reflected the ways that social historians were changing how American history was written and taught, shifting way from “great white man” narratives to include the experiences of blacks and other racial minorities as well as women of all races.
In honor of Black History Month 2013, the Juvenile Instructor will be hosting a month-long series examining the history of black experiences with Mormonism. We have invited leading experts on the subject to participate in the series, in hopes of highlighting cutting-edge scholarship and increasing dialogue among scholars and our readers on the importance of blacks in Mormon history. Some JI bloggers will also contribute to the series, starting tomorrow with J. Stapley’s opening post. At the conclusion of the series, our resident expert on the subject, Max, will offer concluding thoughts.
N.B. In recent years, there has been debate over whether dedicating one month to black history gives Americans a pass to forget the subject for the remainder of the year. We at the JI believe that Mormon history should be racially inclusive, regardless of the month, although we also see some benefit in concentrating our discussion this month for the reasons discussed above.
For prior JI posts on the priesthood/temple ban and black experiences with Mormonism, see here.