Skip navigation links

Feb. 15, 2021

Honoring Black history at MSU

The people and moments that influenced the university and nation

Celebrated throughout February, Black History Month honors the achievements of Black Americans and recognizes their central role in U.S. history. How and when Black History Month originated is a lesson with ties to Michigan.

Also known as African American History Month, the event dates back to February 1926 when Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans designated the second week of February (to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass) as "Negro History Week."

Fifty years later, former U.S. President and Michigan congressman Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month as a month-long opportunity to formally honor the accomplishments of Black Americans “in every area of endeavor throughout history.”

Since then, American presidents have designated February as Black History Month and have endorsed a specific theme each year. The theme for 2021 is Black family: representation, identity and diversity. Michigan State University is committed to exploring the rich history of Black America and highlighting the successes that span the African diaspora.

Learn about the contributions of Black Americans who broke down barriers that led to greater integration and diversity at MSU and left their mark on history.

All images, unless otherwise specified, are property of Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections.

By: Beth Brauer and Kelsie Lane