February celebrates Black History Month
Black History Month celebrates the rich cultural heritage, triumphs and adversities that are an indelible part of this country’s history, states npr.org.
Also known as African American History Month, history.com states, the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history.
According to bbc.com, February was chosen in the US because it coincides with the births of former President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass – who escaped slavery and became a key social activist. Both men played a significant role in helping to end slavery.
Although Black History Month originated in the United States, it has gained international status. The first Black History Month observance in the United Kingdom took place in London, England in 1987, reports blackbaud.com. It was established to honor the contributions that people of African and Caribbean descent were making across several areas of UK society including in politics, the military, health services and more.
Today, Black History Month in the UK is an annual, nationally recognized celebration that continues to bring light to and commemorate milestones in Black history over the years.
Black History Month is also significant in Copper Country history. In 1848, Noel Johnson, an enslaved man who had escaped from Missouri, discovered copper in the Ontonagon mining district. Johnson, however, could not secure a claim on the lease, because he was not a “freeman.”
Johnson, however, knew Cyrus Mendenhall, who was almost certainly responsible for Johnson’s presence in the Ontonagon region, because Mendenhall, who owned a schooner, the Algonquin, was a captain on the Underground Railroad. Mendenhall located and contacted the Missouri slaveholders who claimed ownership over Johnson, and paid to purchase Johnson, then declared him a free man, enabling Johnson to lease the property, subsequently selling the rights to the Mass Mining Co.
Throughout the month of February, the Daily Mining Gazette will celebrate Black History Month, exploring the rich contributions of African Americans.