Black History Month is an annual observance originating in the United States, where it is also known as African American History Month. It has received official recognition from governments in the United States and Canada and more recently has been observed in Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

Why is Black History Month in February? The tradition began based on the birthdays of two important historical figures: the births of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who claimed February 14 as his birthday, and President Abraham Lincoln, who was born on February 12. Leon Rodrigues, director for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Luther Seminary says, “Black history is an integral part of our shared American history, worthy of being celebrated.”

African Americans are largely the descendants of enslaved people who were brought from their African homelands by force to work in the New World. Their rights were severely limited, and they were long denied a rightful share in the economic, social, and political progress of the United States. Nevertheless, African Americans have made basic and lasting contributions to American history and culture. This month I will take a look at our history and highlight some of the outstanding achievements and contributions made by African Americans.


1619 – First Africans arrive in Virginia. They were indentured servants, not slaves.

1650 – Race-based slavery began. By the 1660s, slavery was reserved for Africans only.

1793 – The invention of the cotton gin greatly increased the demand for slave labor. A federal fugitive slave law is enacted providing for the return of escaped slaves who crossed state lines.

1800 – Virginia slave laws tightened after Gabriel Prosser, an enslaved blacksmith, organized a slave revolt. His intent was uncovered. Conspirators were hanged.

1804 – Haiti becomes the world’s first independent black republic after fighting a five-year war against French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Leaders of the successful insurrection included Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Toussaint L’Overture, and Henri Christophe.

1808 – US Congress bans importation of slaves from Africa.


For His Glory,
Pastor Bernie Miller