The Origin Story of Black History Month

The Origin Story of Black History Month

By WNYC Studios

Notes from America

Monday, 1 February

We’ve got complicated relationships with this annual celebration -- from joy to frustration. So to launch our Future of Black History series, we ask how it began and what it can be.

Producer Veralyn Williams invites us into a lively conversation about her annual Black History Month parties -- before COVID-19 social distancing was imposed -- with some friends of the show. 

Then, Dr. Pero Dagbovie, a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of History and an Associate Dean in the Graduate School at Michigan State University, introduces us to Dr. Carter G. Woodson - often called the “Father of Black History” - before explaining how a week-long celebration of Black Achievement at the turn of the 20th century evolved into the month-long observance that we know today.

Companion listening for this episode:

The Life and Work of Ida B. Wells” (5/8/20)

She’s a bold-faced name of history -- but do you really know her story? She played a defining role in 20th Century American politics.

Juneteenth, an Unfinished Business” (6/26/20)

Reflections on the annual celebration of Emancipation, from music to personal histories.

“The United States of Anxiety” airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on or tell your smart speakers to play WNYC.

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