Black History Month: Uncovering the Origins circa 1915 and Beyond Program

1870s black southerners wait on a levee for a steamship west. Library of Congress.

Black History Month: Uncovering the Origins and Modern Questions

In 1915 the United States was still reeling from the Civil War.  People categorized as Negro were eager to know who and what they were after an era of institutionalized enslavement based on their race. That year, which marked the fifty years end of race based enslavement after the war, saw the Negro population attempting to discover itself amidst the wider violence often directed at the group from a nation battling with itself to come to terms with the fundamental change to the national identity brought on by the end of slavery.

That year an exhibition fair called the 1915 Lincoln Jubilee, or the Illinois (National) Half-Century Anniversary of Negro Freedom took place in Chicago, Illinois. The event was put on by both black and white organizers and black people from all over the country, by the thousands, traveled to the Fair to learn their history in America and beyond.

Inspired by his experience at the Exposition and awed by the need he saw in black people  to see their history and themselves as beautiful, an African American historian named Carter G. Woodson formed along with others, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) and promoted an annual celebration of black life and history which over the years has continued to grow and change, known today as Black History Month.

This African American celebration reflects and dialogues with the wider American experience today.


In this program we discuss what black Americans faced in a complicated nation around the time of the formation of what became Black History Month. We look at some of the emotional longings and key players and events in our nation at that time. We look at the experience of black Americans from 1915 and understand our personal American experience in a larger context. (Early Twentieth century circa 1915).