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Charleston Business

February is Black History Month,

Feb 21, 2023 09:15AM ● By Donna Isbell Walker

February is Black History Month, a celebration that began in the 1920s as Negro History Week. It was officially changed to Black History Month by President Gerald Ford in 1976.

A decade later, Congress passed a bill designating February as National Black History Month. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States population in 2021 included 49,586,352 Black or African American individuals.

In 2021, 90.3 percent of African Americans age 25 and up had a high school diploma, and 33.7 percent of African Americans age 16 or older worked in management, business, science, or arts occupations.

The Census Bureau also noted that there were 140,918 Black-owned employer businesses in the United States in 2020. 

African Americans have long served their country in the military, and as of 2021, there were 2 million Black civilian military veterans in the United States.

Texas had the largest population of Black residents (those who identify as Black and not mixed race) in 2021, numbering 3.8 million. South Carolina’s Black population totaled 1.3 million in 2021.

While Black History Month is a big focus of February, the month also brings the anniversaries of some significant moments in African American history.

Poet Langston Hughes, civil rights icon Rosa Parks, activist Frederick Douglass, and baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron all were born in February. It’s also the birth month of President Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

The NAACP was founded on the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, Feb. 12, 1909.

Feb. 1, 1960, was the date of the first sit-in, held at a Greensboro,  North Carolina, Woolworth’s, in which four Black students sat down at the lunch counter and ordered coffee, refusing to leave when they were not served.

That first sit-in created a movement of peaceful protests that was integral to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, eventually helping to bring about the Civil Rights Act of 1964.