Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" Speech | Black History Month

Today is February 1, 2019 which marks the first day of Black History in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. It began as a way for remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. It is celebrated annually in the United States and Canada in February, as well as in the United Kingdom. Black History Month is celebrated in the Netherlands and Republic of Ireland in October.

(Martin L. King, Jr, "I Have a Dream" speech)


Negro History Week (1926)

The precursor to Black History Month was created in 1926 in the United States, when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be "Negro History Week". This week was chosen because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12th and of Frederick Douglas on February 14, both of which dates black communities had celebrated together since the late 19th century.

(Carter G. Woodson) 


From the event's initial phase, primary emphasis was placed on encouraging the coordinated teaching of the history of American blacks in the nation's public schools. The first Negro History Week was met with a lukewarm response, gaining the cooperation of the Departments of Education of the states of North CarolinaDelaware, and West Virginia as well as the city school administrations of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.  Despite this far from universal acceptance, the event was regarded by Woodson as "one of the most fortunate steps ever taken by the Association", and plans for a repeat of the event on an annual basis continued apace.


By 1929, The Journal of Negro History was able to note that with only two exceptions, officials with the State Departments of Educations of "every state with considerable Negro population" had made the event known to that state's teachers and distributed official literature associated with the event". Churches also played a significant role in the distribution of literature in association with Negro History Week during this initial interval, with the mainstream and black press aiding in the publicity effort.

Negro History Week was met with enthusiastic response; it prompted the creation of black history clubs, an increase in interest among teachers, and interest from progressive whites. Negro History Week grew in popularity throughout the following decades, with mayors across the United States endorsing it as a holiday.

On February 21, 2016, 106-year Washington D.C. resident and school volunteer Virginia McLaurin visited the White House as part of Black History Month. When asked by the president why she was there, McLaurin said, "A black president. A black wife. And I’m here to celebrate black history. That's what I'm here for."

United States: Black History Month (1970)


The Black United Students first Black culture center (Kuumba House) where many events of the first Black History Month celebration took place.
Black History Month was first proposed by black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. The first celebration of Black History Month took place at Kent State one year later, from January 2, 1970 – February 28, 1970.
Six years later, Black History Month was being celebrated all across the country in educational institutions, centers of Black culture and community centers, both great and small, when President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month, during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial. He urged Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history".


United Kingdom (1987)

Black History Month was first celebrated in the United Kingdom in 1987. It was organised through the leadership of Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who had served as a coordinator of special projects for the Greater London Council (GLC) and created a collaboration to get it underway. It was first celebrated in London.

Canada (1995)

In 1995, after a motion by politician Jean Augustine, representing the riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore in Ontario, Canada's House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month and honored Black Canadians. In 2008, Senator Donald Oliver moved to have the Senate officially recognize Black History Month, which was unanimously approved.

Republic of Ireland (2014)

In 2014 the Republic of Ireland became only the fourth country in the world to officially celebrate Black History Month. Ireland's Great Hunger Institute notes: “Black History Month Ireland was initiated in Cork in 2010. This location seems particularly appropriate as, in the nineteenth century, the city was a leading center of abolition, and the male and female anti-slavery societies welcomed a number of black abolitionists to lecture there, including Charles Lenox Remond and Frederick Douglass." (Wikipedia)

"I Have A Dream"


"I Have a Dream" is a public speech that was delivered by American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, in which he called for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States. Delivered to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the speech was a defining moment of the civil rights movement.

Beginning with a reference to the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed millions of slaves in 1863, King said "one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free". Toward the end of the speech, King departed from his prepared text for a partly improvised peroration on the theme "I have a dream", prompted by Mahalia Jackson's cry: "Tell them about the dream, Martin!" In this part of the speech, which most excited the listeners and has now become its most famous, King described his dreams of freedom and equality arising from a land of slavery and hatred. Jon Meacham writes that, "With a single phrase, Martin Luther King Jr. joined Jefferson and Lincoln in the ranks of men who've shaped modern America". The speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century in a 1999 poll of scholars of public address.

Learn about the political and social context behind Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have A Dream" speech, the rhetorical devices that helped its concepts resonate, and its effect on the broader Civil Rights Movement. Click here to watch the video:



  How do you celebrate Black History Month?  Leave a message in the comments. 

Comments

Popular Articles

TRAVEL: 10 Tips for a Low-Cost Weekend Getaway (2017)

DRESS CODE: 25 Infographics for Men's Suits from Around the Web (2017)

Top 10 Tips for Personal Finance (2018)