February is Black History Month in the United States and Canada.

It began with the creation of national Negro History week in 1926, founded by historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland through their organization Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), which focused on researching and promoting the achievements of Black Americans and those of African descent.

By the late 1960s, the celebration had evolved into a month-long event on several college campuses and, in 1976, U.S. President Gerald Ford officially recognized it as Black History Month.

Black History Month celebrates the contributions that African Americans have made to U.S. culture and society. Black Americans have also advanced the CPG and retail industries, from developing new consumer products to creating innovative technologies that have made key areas of our industry possible today. We’ve highlighted a few examples below.

Black Innovators in CPG and Retail

 
 
IRI

CONFECTIONERY

Wally Amos (1936-)
Having worked his way up from mailroom clerk to the first African American talent agent for the famed William Morris Agency, Wally Amos began making cookies to send to potential clients to invite them to speak with him. In March 1975, he opened a store in Los Angeles dedicated to his Famous Amos Cookies, which are now part of leading confectionery manufacturer Ferrara.



IRI

PERSONAL HYGIENE

Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner (1912-2006)
Born in North Carolina to a family of inventors, Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner was an inventor most noted for her development of the sanitary belt, although her product was rejected after it was discovered that she was African American, leading to her patent expiring and becoming public domain. Between 1957 and 1987, she received five total patents for household and personal items including a more accessible toilet-tissue holder for blind individuals and people with arthritis and a back washer that could be mounted to a shower wall.



IRI

PRODUCE DISTRIBUTOR

C.H. James (1864-1929)
In 1883, 19-year-old C. H. James began a bartering business in West Virginia, using a mule wagon to trade cotton, sugar and other goods in exchange for produce the family could grow. The business eventually became a wholesale fruit and produce distribution company serving independent grocers and restaurants. By 1918, it was the largest wholesale food distributor in the state, with sales over $350,000 a year. C.H. James & Co., still a produce distributor and with investments in quick service restaurants., is still one of the oldest and largest African American-owned companies in the U.S. Four generations of the James’ family have now run the firm.



IRI

PORTABLE REFRIGERATION

Frederick McKinley Jones (1893-1961)
In 1940, inventor and entrepreneur Frederick McKinley Jones co-founded U.S. Thermo Control (now Thermo King) and developed multiple patents for cooling units, including portable refrigeration for transporting perishable goods. This innovation has been vital to the grocery industry as it transports products from manufacturers to retailers, and it was key to the development of the frozen food category.



IRI

SUGAR REFINEMENT

Norbert Rillieux (1806-1894)
Born into a prominent Creole family, Norbert Rillieux was an American-French inventor who revolutionized sugar processing. His multiple-effect evaporation system solved the challenges of the sugar cane juice spilling when processed, as well as uneven heat application during processing, and the invention resulted in production of better-quality sugar at a lower cost. This was considered an early innovation in chemical engineering and the best method for lowering the temperature of all industrial evaporation while saving fuel.



IRI

HAIR CARE AND MARKETING

Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone (1877-1957)
Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone, possibly the daughter of parents who were enslaved, became one of the first African American millionaires from developing and manufacturing her own line of non-damaging hair straighteners, oils and hair-stimulant products for African American women which revolutionized the hair care industry. Annie initially sold door to door, then opened her own shops and launched advertising and marketing campaigns for her products. One of her sales agents was Madame CJ Walker, who eventually opened her own incredibly successfully hair care products business.



 
IRI

HAIR CARE AND COSMETICS

Madame CJ Walker (1867-1919)
Madame CJ Walker, born as Sarah Breedlove, is perhaps one of the most popular figures in cosmetics and hair care history, and she was also one of the first Black female millionaires. In the early 1900s, she pioneered an ointment to heal scalps and encourage hair growth which she turned into a national business, founding the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company and creating the innovative permanent wave machine. When she died, Madame CJ Walker was considered the wealthiest African American businesswomen and the wealthiest self-made Black woman.


Key February Events in Black History

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Black/African American Holidays in the U.S.

Click on the month to view important dates.

JANUARY

January

SLAVERY AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING PREVENTION MONTH
Began by President Barack Obama. On December 28, 2016, he called upon businesses, national & community organizations, families, and all Americans to recognize the vital role they must play in ending all forms of slavery, and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities.


Jan 1

EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION ANNIVERSARY
On this date in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed this document proclaiming that all slaves living within rebelling Confederate states “are, and henceforth shall be, free.”


Jan 5

GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER DAY
Dr. Carver was awarded the Roosevelt Medal in 1939 for saving Southern agriculture, which was later instrumental in feeding the United States during World War II). For this reason, Dr. Carver’s hometown was made a historic site upon his death on Jan. 5, 1943. During the 79th Congress, Public Law 290 was passed to designate January 5th of each year as George Washington Carver Recognition Day.


Jan 18

MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY
commemorating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., the recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize and an activist for nonviolent social change until his assassination in 1968.


FEBRUARY

February

BLACK HISTORY MONTH
in the United States and Canada. Since 1976, the month has been designated to remember the contributions of people of the African Diaspora. Historian Carter G. Woodson launched the holiday because contributions that African Americans have made to U.S. culture and society are largely omitted from and overlooked in history books.


Feb 4

ROSA PARKS DAY
is an American holiday in honor of the civil rights leader. In California and Missouri, Rosa Parks Day is celebrated on her birthday, February 4. In Ohio and Oregon, it’s celebrated on the day she was arrested, December 1.


Feb 14

FREDERICK DOUGLASS DAY
The day marks the birthday of Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey). He was an American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing. He stood as a living counterexample to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves did not have the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens.


MARCH

March 5

CRISPUS ATTUCKS DAY, OR BOSTON MASSACRE DAY
It has been observed since 1771, mainly in Boston, Massachusetts. Since 1949, Crispus Attucks Day has also been a legal day of observance in the state of New Jersey. Crispus Attucks was the first Black American to die during the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770, a key event leading up to the Revolutionary War. For this reason, he is considered the first American fatality of the War.


March 10

HARRIET TUBMAN DAY
an American holiday in honor of the anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman (born Araminta Ross), observed nationally, in the State of New York, and locally around the State of Maryland. Despite great hardship and great danger, Ms. Tubman undertook 19 trips as a conductor to lead hundreds of slaves to freedom. She later became an eloquent and effective speaker on behalf of the movement to abolish slavery, also serving the Civil War as a soldier, spy, and nurse, among other roles. She died on March 10, 1913.


March 16

THE FIRST BLACK NEWSPAPER IN AMERICA
In 1827, Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm debuted “Freedom’s Journal,” the first African American-owned and operated newspaper published in the U.S. All 103 issues have been digitized and are available at the Wisconsin Historical Society’s website.


March 21

INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
This annual day commemorates the lives that have been lost to fight for democracy and equal human rights in South Africa during the Apartheid regime.


APRIL

April 15

JACKIE ROBINSON DAY
a traditional event which occurs annually in Major League Baseball, commemorating and honoring the day Jackie Robinson made his major league debut. April 15 was Opening Day in 1947, Robinson’s first season in the Major Leagues. Initiated for the first time on April 15, 2004, Jackie Robinson Day is celebrated each year on that day.


April 16

EMANCIPATION DAY
a holiday in Washington DC to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Compensated Emancipation Act, which President Abraham Lincoln signed on April 16, 1862. It freed more than 3000 slaves in the District of Columbia.


MAY

May 17

ANNIVERSARY OF THE SCHOOL DESEGREGATION RULING
In 1954, racial segregation in public schools was unanimously ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, found to violate the 14th Amendment clause guaranteeing equal protection under the law.


May 16, 2021

MALCOLM X DAY
an American holiday in honor of civil rights leader Malcolm X, celebrated either on his birthday (May 19, 1925) or the 3rd Sunday of May. The commemoration was proposed as an official state holiday in the State of Illinois in 2015. As of present, only the city of Berkeley, California observes the holiday with city offices and schools closed.


May 19

MALCOLM X’S BIRTHDAY
an American holiday in honor of civil rights leader Malcolm X, whose real name is El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. Some choose to celebrate either on his birthday (May 19, 1925), or on the 3rd Sunday of May.


May 25

AFRICAN LIBERATION DAY
Also known as African Freedom Day, it is a day to “mark, each year, the onward progress of the liberation movement, and to symbolize the determination of the People of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.”


JUNE

June

AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSIC APPRECIATION MONTH
It began in 1979 when Kenny Gamble, Ed Wright, and Dyana Williams developed the idea to set aside a month dedicated to celebrating the impact of Black music. In 2009, President Barack Obama declared the start of summer as a celebration for all the Black “musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters [who] have made enormous contributions to our culture.” On May 31, 2016, President Obama officially declared the month of June as African American Music Appreciation Month.


June 12

LOVING DAY
which commemorates the date in 1967 that an interracial couple got the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down anti-miscegenation laws in the country. Today, Blacks, whites and others celebrate June 12 as Loving Day throughout the nation.


June 13, 2021

ODUNDE FESTIVAL
or African New Year. This one-day festival is mostly a street market catered to African American interests and the African diaspora derived from the tradition of the Yoruba people of Nigeria in celebration of the new year. It’s centered at the intersection of Grays Ferry Avenue and South Street in Philadelphia, PA. The Odunde festival started in Philly in 1975, established by Lois Fernandez with just $100 in neighborhood donations. Now, this celebration is the largest African celebration on the east coast of the U.S.


June 19

JUNETEENTH
(AKA “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day”), and is observed as a public holiday in 14 U.S. states. This celebration honors the day in 1865 when slaves in Texas and Louisiana finally heard that they were free, two full months after the end of the Civil War. June 19, therefore, became the day of emancipation for thousands of Black U.S. citizens. While most slaves received their freedom after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves in Texas had to wait more than 2.5 years later to receive their freedom — on June 19, 1865 when the Union Army arrived in Galveston ordering that slavery end in the “Lone Star State.” Ever since, African Americans have celebrated that date as “Juneteenth Independence Day.” Juneteenth is an official State Holiday in Texas.


June 23

BIRTHDAY OF HAILE SELASSIE (RASTAFARI)
former Emperor of Ethiopia who Rastas considered to be God and their Savior, who would return to Africa the members of the Black community living in exile. The Rastafari movement surfaced in Jamaica among peasant and working-class Black people and was propagated through the Rastas’ interest in reggae music, most notably that of Bob Marley, the Jamaican-born singer and songwriter.


JULY

July 18

NELSON MANDELA INTERNATIONAL DAY
in recognition of Mandela’s birthday on July 18, 2009, launched via unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly. It was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made a year earlier for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices by saying, “It is in your hands now.” This day is more than a celebration of Madiba’s life, work, and legacy; it’s a global movement to take action to change the world for the better.


July 19

MAAFA COMMEMORATION
This commemoration provides an opportunity for members of the African-descended community to remember the millions of Africans — men, women, and children — who were sold, kidnapped, shipped and who died along the route from Africa to the Americas.


AUGUST

Aug 13

PAN-AFRICAN FLAG
is the date in 1920 that the red, black, and green Pan-African flag was formally adopted by The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) in Article 39 of the Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World.s.


Aug 17

MARCUS GARVEY DAY
which celebrates the birthday of the Jamaican politician and activist who is revered by Rastafarians. Garvey is credited with starting the Back to Africa movement, which encouraged those of African descent to return to the land of their ancestors during and after slavery in North America.


SEPTEMBER

Sept 11

ENKUTATASH
or the Ethiopian New Year. Rastafarians celebrate the New Year on this date and believe that Ethiopia is their spiritual home, a place they desire to return to. Enkutatash means “gift of jewels” in Amharic. The celebration is both religious and secular with the day beginning with church services, followed by the family meal. Young children receive small gifts of money or bread after the girls gather flowers and sing, and boys paint pictures of saints. Families visit friends, and adults drink Ethiopian beer.


Sept 25

SCHOOL DESEGREGATION
School desegregation came to Little Rock, AR. In 1957, nine teenagers became the first African Americans to attend the all-white Central High School in Arkansas, putting a national spotlight on racism. Former President Eisenhower sent federal troops to protect the students and ensure compliance with the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision.


OCTOBER

Oct 1

JERRY RESCUE DAY
This observance celebrates the rescue of William Jerry Henry. Known as “Jerry,” Henry was a fugitive slave who was captured in Syracuse, New York, but freed from jail on October 1, 1851, with the help of abolitionists. Originally a protest against the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, the “Jerry Rescue” was commemorated on that day each year from 1852 to 1859, and on occasion after that time.


Oct 2

THURGOOD MARSHALL
The date Thurgood Marshall was sworn into the Supreme Court. In 1967, Judge Marshall became the first African American to sit on the highest court in the land. Opposing discrimination and the death penalty, he championed free speech and civil liberties.


Oct 3

FRANK ROBINSON
the date Frank Robinson was signed as Major League Manager. In 1974, hired by the Cleveland Indians, he became the first African American to manage a major league baseball team.


Oct 17

BLACK POETRY DAY
This is a day to honor past and present black poets. Jupiter Hammon, the first published black poet in the United States, was born in Long Island, New York, on October 17, 1711. In honor of Hammon’s birth, we celebrate the contributions of all African Americans to the world of poetry.


NOVEMBER

Nov 28

UMOJA KARAMU CELEBRATION
created in 1971 by Edward Simms Jr. to inject new meaning and solidarity into the Black family through ceremony and symbol. Umoja Karamu means “unity feast” in Swahili, and is based around five colors and their meanings, which represent five historical periods in African American history. Black represents Black families before slavery, White symbolizes the scattering of Black families during slavery, Red denotes the liberation from slavery, Green signifies the struggle for civil equality and Gold implies hope for the future.


DECEMBER

Dec 1

ROSA PARKS DAY
is an American holiday in honor of the civil rights leader. In Ohio and Oregon, Rosa Parks Day is celebrated on the day she was arrested, December 1. In California and Missouri, it is celebrated on her birthday, February 4.


Dec 2

THE INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY
marking the date the General Assembly adopted the “United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others” (resolution 317(IV) of December 2, 1949). The focus of this day is on eradicating contemporary forms of slavery, such as trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation, the worst forms of child labor, forced marriage, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.


Dec. 26 - Jan. 1

KWANZAA
a holiday established in 1996 by Maulana Karenga as a time for African Americans to “discover and bring forth the best of our culture, both ancient and current, and use it as a foundation to bring into being models of human excellence and possibilities to enrich and expand our lives.”

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