In the early 20th century, a growing movement was underway to recognize and celebrate the contributions of African Americans to American history. Among the organizations at the forefront of this movement was Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated, a historically Black Greek-lettered fraternity founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Founded on November 17, 1911, Omega Psi Phi has long been committed to promoting and preserving African American history and culture. One of the fraternity’s most notable contributions was its role in advocating for the creation of Black History Month.
The idea of a national celebration of African American history and culture was first proposed by historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1915. Dr. Woodson, a member of Omega Psi Phi, believed that African American history was an important aspect of American history and should be recognized and celebrated accordingly. He founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), which later became the National Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (NAASAALH).
Dr. Carter G. Woodson gave a speech entitled Democracy and the Man Far Down, at the fraternity’s Ninth Annual Grand Conclave. In the address, he “urged the college man to give less attention to social affairs and devote more time to the study of Negro life.” Omega Psi Phi brothers were moved by his speech and initiated a program in 1924 called Negro History and Literature Week, to be held in April of every year.
In 1926, Dr. Woodson announced the first Negro History Week in February 1926. February was chosen because it was the month in which both Lincoln and Douglass were born. According to the New York Times, “After Lincoln’s assasination, his birthday, on Feb. 12, had been celebrated by Black Americans and Republicans. Douglass Day, which was observed on Feb. 14, had grown in popularity since Mary Church Terrell had started it in Washington in 1897.”
In February 1969, students and educators at Kent State University expanded upon the week and proposed the first Black History Month. They officially celebrated it in February 1970. Six years later, in 1976, Black History Month was officially recognized by the U.S. government, and has been celebrated annually since then.
Today, Omega Psi Phi continues to be a strong advocate for Black History Month and works to promote and celebrate African American history and culture through its various programs and initiatives.
The fraternity’s involvement in the creation of Black History Month is a testament to its commitment to preserving and promoting African American history and culture. As one of the largest predominantly African American fraternities in the world, Omega Psi Phi has played a crucial role in advocating for the recognition and celebration of African American contributions to American history, and continues to be a driving force in the effort to promote and preserve African American heritage.