History of African Heritage Month

From the beginning

The commencement of African Heritage Month is traced back to 1926. Harvard-educated Black historian, Carter G. Woodson, founded Negro History Week to recognize the achievements made by African Americans.

Woodson purposefully chose February because of the birthdays of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln who were both key figures in the emancipation of enslaved Blacks.  In the 1950’s Negro History Week was celebrated in Canada, and in 1976 it was expanded to Black History Month.

Black History Month in Canada

For over the past decades, contributions of African-Canadians have been acknowledged informally, however Nova Scotia has set a path for Canada’s recognition of African Heritage Month. Our province has been a leader in the promotion and recognition of our African heritage to our country.  Some efforts of Nova Scotia include: 

  • 1985 – The “official” opening night of Black History Month at the North Branch Library
  • 1987 – First meeting of the Black History Month Association
  • 1988 – First Black History Month in Nova Scotia
  • 1994 – Black History Month Association was officially incorporated in Nova Scotia
  • 1996 – Black History Month renamed to African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia

We believe some of these efforts have influenced our country to take action on a national level:

  • 1995 – The House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month following a motion introduced by the Honourable Jean Augustine, the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament.
  • 2008 – The Senate officially declared February as Black History Month by Nova Scotia Senator Donald Oliver, Q.C., the first Black man appointed to the Senate.  His motion was the final parliamentary procedure needed for Canada’s permanent recognition of Black History Month.