February is Black History Month, and during this time each year we highlight the positive contributions African Americans have had on the country and state. Black History Month began as Negro History Week when it was created by historian Carter G. Woodson through his organization, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), in 1926. Woodson’s week was the second week in February largely due to noted abolitionist Frederick Douglass and former President Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays. From this it slowly grew into an unofficial month of celebration. This growth led to President Gerald Ford officially recognizing Black History Month in 1976 by imploring the public to honor the accomplishments of Black Americans.

Since this initial proclamation, every President has endorsed a specific theme for Black History Month, with this year’s theme being “African Americans and the Arts.” The popularity of this idea has spread across the globe as Ireland, France, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, and seven countries in Africa now also celebrate Black History Month.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will host a virtual panel on Feb. 14h at 10:00 a.m. that includes business leaders from across the state. The leaders will discuss their respective organizations, lessons learned, and the history of black business in Illinois. For more information on this panel, visit https://dceo.illinois.gov/bhm2024.html.

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