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Celebrating Black History

Feb 01, 2013

Every February, we celebrate Black History Month to honor the history, struggle, and achievements of African Americans. This annual celebration began in 1926, when historian Carter G. Woodson created “Negro History Week” to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, during America’s Bicentennial, President Gerald Ford designated the whole month of February as Black History Month.

Girl Scouts can proudly say we have a long history of inclusion and diversity. Our first troop for African American girls was formed in 1917, decades before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. By the 1950s, GSUSA began a national effort to desegregate all Girl Scout troops. Even Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described Girl Scouts as “a force for desegregation.”

Black History Month gives us the opportunity to reflect on all the “firsts” accomplished by African American women. For example, in 1921, Bessie Coleman became the first African American woman to hold an international pilot’s license. In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first African American actor to win an Oscar. And Althea Gibson became the first African American to win both Wimbledon and the U.S. National Tennis Championships (now the U.S. Open) in 1957.

So many inspiring women have faced racial and gender discrimination head on. You can read about their lives—and explore more firsts achieved by women—on our Inspiring Women Timeline site.