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Black Resource Center
Black History Month
Living Legends
Living Legends Selected Images

Celebrating Black History Month

Black History Month

History of Black History Month

Black History Month is an annual observance in February, celebrating the past and present achievements of African Americans. In February 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, proposed the establishment of "Negro History Week" to honor the history and contributions of African Americans to American life. Dr. Woodson, known as the "Father of Black History", chose the second week of February because it commemorates the birthdays of two men who greatly affected the African American community: Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14). Negro History Week became Black History Week in the early 1970's. In 1976, the week-long observance was expanded to a month in honor of the nation's bicentennial.

Black History Month is sponsored by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). The Association was founded in 1915 by Dr. Carter Woodson--historian, teacher, author and publisher. Each year the Association designates the national theme for Black History Month. The 2016 theme is “Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories.”

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"Lift Every Voice and Sing" Anthem

Often referred to as the "Negro National Anthem", this song was written by James Weldon Johnson and his brother J. Rosamond Johnson in 1900 for the celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday. It was originally performed by children at its premiere in Jacksonville, Florida. James W. Johnson was a notable poet who later went on to become one of the founders of the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Rosamond Johnson was a successful composer of music for Broadway.

Lift evry voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

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"I Have A Dream" Speech

Kenneth Hahn with Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.One of most indelible speeches of the Civil Rights Movement is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's eloquent speech "I Have a Dream" from the August 28, 1963, rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Dr. King and other Black ministers formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957 to expand the struggle against racism and discrimination. By early 1963, Dr. King and the SCLC launched non-violent demonstrations to protest racial discrimination in Birmingham, Alabama, then one of the most segregated cities in the United States. In reaction to the violent police actions, President John F. Kennedy proposed a wide-ranging civil rights legislation to Congress.

Dr. King along with other civil rights leaders then organized a massive march on Washington, D.C., to urge Congress to pass Kennedy's bill. On August 28, 1963, nearly a quarter of a million people gathered at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to hear King and others. The highlight of the rally was Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech which has since defined the civil rights movement, not only for African Americans but for all people.

The civil rights movement won a significant victory in 1964 when Congress passed The Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination in public places and promoting equal opportunities in education and employment. Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and is remembered today for his vision and his legacy.

For more information:

"I Have a Dream" Speech
Provides the text and audio of the speech delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.

The King Center
Dedicated to the preservation and advancement of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s work, the King Center offers a wide range of information­biographical information on Dr. King and Coretta Scott King, the King Holiday and other historical information.

The Seattle Times: Martin Luther King
Contains stories and photos from the Seattle Times as wells as time lines for Martin Luther King and for the Civil Rights movement. Click on the "His Words" to hear excerpts from King's most famous speeches, including two excerpts from "I Have a Dream" and one from the speech Dr. King gave the day before he was assassinated in 1968.

The King Papers Project (Stanford University)
The project is a major research effort to assemble and disseminate information about Martin Luther King and the social movements he worked for. The Frequently Requested Documents include the "I Have a Dream" speech which can be viewed in multiple languages by clicking on the flag icons. The site also includes biographical information, King's sermons and other material.

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Reading Lists

Celebrating the Cultural Heritage of African American Writers

Selected Resources for the Study of African American History and Culture

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Additional Information

Black Resource Center, County of Los Angeles Public Library
Located at the A C Bilbrew Library, the Black Resource Center (BRC) was established in 1978 to support research and study on the social, historical, musical and cultural aspects unique to the "Black Experience." There are links to general African American websites and topics such as Juneteenth and Kwanzaa.
The A C Bilbrew Library and the Black Resource Center are currently closed for a library renovation.
If you have a question for the BRC while it is closed please fill out this form and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.
U.S. Census Bureau, Black History Month Feb 2016
Facts and statistics about African Americans.

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Black History Month Events