Reflection, Recognition & Relevance: Black History Month 2021
When we celebrate Black History Month, we also honor the history of America. The fiber of the Black experience is so inextricably woven into the fabric of the United States that it is almost impossible to imagine one without the other.
That was not always the case.
The concept of Black History Month began as just a flicker of an idea, a half-century after the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery in the United States. In 1915, historian Carter G Woodson, the second Black man to earn a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, and prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). It was a time when Black citizens faced a cruel and crushing amount of systemic racism, violence, and oppression. The ASNLH wanted to promote the contributions of Black Americans and people of African descent and the value they brought to this country. By studying the Black experience in the US, they believed we could not only better understand our citizens and our country, but take an important step in fulfilling the promise of America, a place where we recognize the inherent dignity and worth of all.
Nine years later, in 1926, the ASNLH sponsored “Negro History Week,” an event designed to encourage the teaching of Black history in public schools. It was met with a lukewarm response, but Woodson and Moorland were undaunted and firmly believed their work was essential. “If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated,” Woodson said.
The ASNLH would not let that extermination of the Black Experience in America happen.
A breakthrough occurred in 1969 when Black educators at Kent State University expanded Negro History Week into a month-long celebration. Black History Month was born, and in1976, President Gerald Ford recognized it as part of the U.S. Bicentennial.
Today, Black History Month is an annual celebration of culture and pride. The events of 2020 have set a much different stage for this year’s commemoration, however. The challenges faced by the Black community around health, social and economic disparities, police violence, social unrest, racial inequalities, and political disenfranchisement have become an increasingly central part of our political discourse. .
During Black History Month and for the remainder of the year, IBM will highlight Black IBMers who have made and are making significant contributions to society and the world. IBM continues our commitment to racial inclusion with this year’s theme:“Honoring Our Legacy, Paving Our Path Forward.”
The story of IBM is as much about equal opportunity as it is about technological advancement. For IBM’s founder Thomas Watson Sr. and his son, equitable treatment of all employees was a priority in the company they created and ran. That remains a central virtue of our corporate culture.
Black History Month 2021 is a time to reflect and recognize the contributions of Black Americans and celebrate their heritage. Workplace diversity continues to be a priority for IBM as we honor those who have made the company not only what it is today, but how strong we can all be tomorrow.