This Month in History: February
This Month in History, from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt®, HISTORY®, Channel One News®, and the Center for Civic Education, provides free, high-quality content each month that teachers can use in their classroom. Subscribe today and be the first to access engaging videos, resources, and current events for your students.
Free classroom resources from our partners HISTORY, Channel One and the Center for Civic Education
- Presidents' Days
- Black History Month
- Students Take Action
- Current Events
Free Classroom Resources from HISTORY
Presidents' Day is an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it is still officially called "Washington's Birthday" by the federal government. Traditionally celebrated on February 22—Washington's actual day of birth—the holiday became popularly known as Presidents' Day after it was moved as part of 1971's Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation's workers. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other figures, Presidents' Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.
Learn more about Presidents' Day
Short video: White House
Short video: George Washington Reanimated?
Short video: Presidential Fun Facts
Short video: Deconstructing History: Mount Rushmore
Black History Month
Black History Month, or National African American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. The event grew out of "Negro History Week," the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history.
Learn more about Black History Month
Short video: Origins of Black History Month
Short video: Martin Luther King, Jr.
Speech: Muhammad Ali on Sports and Politics
Free Classroom Resources from HMH®
Black History Month
As we observe Black History Month throughout February, one name you may hear often mentioned is that of Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Doctor Woodson is considered to be the Father of African American History, not only for his creation of an annual African American History observation, but also for his efforts to make the study of African American history in America a serious academic field.
Carter Woodson was born in Virginia in 1875, a decade after the end of the Civil War. As a young man he worked in a coal mine and was unable to attend high school until he was 20 years old. But after taking college courses while he worked, Woodson ended up going to the prestigious University of Chicago and eventually to Harvard University, where he got his doctorate.
After getting his degree from Harvard, Woodson found that there was no serious research of African American culture and history. As a result, in 1915 he founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History). Woodson went on to write such college textbooks as The Negro in Our History and The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861.
As part of his efforts to raise awareness of African Americans' contributions to American history, Carter Woodson came up with the idea of having a Negro History Week every year in February. It is this tradition that eventually became today's Black History Month.
The election in 2008 of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States will be, for many, the most significant event of African American history in their lifetime. Obama's successful campaign for the Democratic Party's nomination, followed by his convincing victory over his Republican opponent, John McCain, only set the stage for his opportunity to govern the nation. The launching of the first U.S. administration headed by an African American is cause for looking forward. But the past remains hugely significant, as Obama said in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 2009:
Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism—these things are old.
These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.
What is demanded then is a return to these truths.
President Obama also called on Americans to "choose our better history"—but in order to so choose, we must know that history, or learn that history. Black History Month is an opportunity to grow in our knowledge of American history and of the special contributions that African Americans have made. The following links provide numerous jumping-off points for exploration.
- Black History Month: The History Channel
The History Channel maintains this site dedicated to Black History Month. Contains photos, videos, and maps.
- BHM: The Official Guide to Black History Month
Learn how—and when—Black History Month is observed in the United Kingdom.
- Celebrating Our Black History
Explore this interactive site to learn more about prominent African Americans in U.S. history and see video segments featuring African American leaders of today. From Biography.com.
- We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement
This National Park Service (NPS) travel itinerary lists 49 places associated with the modern civil rights movement, including the Selma-to-Montgomery March route.
- Our Shared History: African American Heritage
This NPS Web site links to other sites related to African American heritage, highlighting what archeologists can tell us about past African American life ways and including stories as told by museum curators' and other preservation specialists' real-life exhibits and public programs.
- The HistoryMakers
The HistoryMakers, a nonprofit educational institution, preserves and provides easy access to an internationally recognized archive of African American video oral histories.
- National Museum of African Art
Learn about Africa's rich heritage as the cradle of humanity through exhibitions at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.
Presidents' Day is a national holiday that honors George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The holiday began as a celebration of Washington alone, and was celebrated on his birthday—February 22—from the 1880s until 1971. While it was never a federal holiday, many states celebrated Lincoln's birthday as well, on February 12. In 1971, the holiday was moved to the third Monday of February to give workers a three-day weekend, and since then the two presidents' birthdays have been celebrated on the same day. Officially, though, the holiday is still known as Washington's Birthday.
Parades are held in some communities to celebrate the holiday. Some people see the day as a reason to learn about the presidents. But Presidents' Day is also well-known as a day when many businesses hold sales. In fact, it is partially through the advertising of three-day weekend sales that the holiday became known as Presidents' Day.
Free Classroom Resources from Channel One News
This collection of videos and lesson plans focuses on the lives of African Americans throughout our nation's history. Students will delve into the African American experience, with videos and slideshows that explore civil rights history and politics, as well as African American arts and culture.
Students Take Action from Center for Civic Education
The Students Take Action service-learning feature relates stories of students who have participated in the Center for Civic Education's Project Citizen program, which encourages students to take part in state or local government and learn how to monitor and influence public policy. Help your students become active and engaged citizens in their own communities with these resources.
HMH In the News and Current Events
Hmhinthenews.com is a great resource for elementary classrooms, with fun articles about what's going on in the news. This website delivers age-appropriate current events stories about people, communities, the United States, and the world every month. Come back often for new stories, spotlight features, and polls.
Hmhcurrentevents.com enriches your secondary classroom with subject-specific information from world history, world geography, American history, economics, psychology, sociology, civics, government, and African American history. It also spotlights today's headlines with activities, web links, and HMH Election Connection.
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