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Historical Happenings in February 2024



Love is in the air, and so are these monumental moments throughout history! Celebrate the month of February with these teacher tidbits and free resources — it’s our Valentine’s Day gift to you!


History at a Glance:


  • February 1 – March 1, 2024: Black History Month

  • February 8, 1910: Boy Scouts of America was Founded

  • February 14, 2024: Valentine’s Day


February 1 - March 1, 2024: Black History Month


Since 1976, February has nationally been recognized as Black History Month — a time to reflect on African Americans’ history and celebrate their achievements! Black History Month was started by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926 to encourage the study of African American history.[1]


Woodson was the second African American to graduate from Harvard University with a Ph.D. in 1912. He co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History) in 1915. The organization’s mission was — and still is — to promote the scholarly study of Black history. He was the dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Howard University from 1919 to 1920, and he then served as the dean at West Virginia State College from 1920 to 1922.[2] His goal to celebrate African Americans’ heritage led him to start Negro History Week in 1926, which is now known as Black History Month.


Frederick Douglass

Negro History Week took place during the second week in February to coincide with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) and Frederick Douglass’s birthday (February 14).[3] Over the following decades, Negro History Week was celebrated throughout the U.S. It wasn’t until 1976 that it became a month-long celebration with President Gerald R. Ford’s proclamation to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”[4]


Every year, a new theme is selected to illustrate the cultural and historical significance of this month, and the theme for 2024 is “African Americans and the Arts.” Below are some ways that you can tie this theme to your lesson plans. Also, be sure to explore our Black Heritage collection for more resources!


Teacher Resources:



February 8, 1910: Boy Scouts of America was Founded


Known as National Boy Scouts Day, February 8 commemorates the anniversary of the founding of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).[5] The Boy Scouts had already been in existence in England since 1908 by founder Lieutenant General Robert S.S. Baden-Powell before being incorporated across the pond in America as the BSA in 1910.[6]


Baden-Powell, an officer in the British Army until his retirement in 1910, discovered that the scouting military guide he wrote, Aids to Scouting, was popular among boys. This discovery sparked an idea for a scouting program for youth, which he tested at a camp he held for boys on  Brownsea Island. The camp’s success prompted Baden-Powell to start Boy Scouts and write Scouting for Boys.[7] 


Boy Scouts was originally meant for boys ages 11-15, but in 1916, Baden-Powell created the Wolf Cubs for younger boys (also called Cub Scouts in other countries). Scouts were expected to learn skills like tracking, mapping, signaling, knotting, and first aid. They also had to vow to be loyal, helpful, and obedient to the organization’s laws and rules. By 1910, the Boy Scouts had spread to Sweden, Mexico, Argentina, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and the United States.[8] 


When American publisher William Dickson Boyce was in London in 1909 and became lost, he asked a Boy Scout to help him find an office building. The Scout escorted Boyce to his destination and even declined the tip Boyce offered him, saying he couldn’t accept money for doing a “Good Turn.” Boyce was inspired by the Scout and set up a meeting with Baden-Powell to discuss starting an American incorporation of Boy Scouts, which he did on February 8, 1910. To honor the Scout who helped Boyce find his way through the streets of London, the BSA placed a statue of the “Unknown Scout” in Gilwell Park in London. The inscription on the statue reads, “To the Unknown Scout Whose Faithfulness in the Performance of the Daily Good Turn Brought the Scout Movement to the United States of America.”[9]



Today, the BSA exemplifies the “Unknown Scout’s” character with its oath “...to help other people at all times.” BSA has over 1 million members ages 5-21 and 628,000 volunteers. Each troop is led by volunteers and sponsored by churches, clubs, or associations.[10] BSA is now co-ed, and girls and boys can join different programs based on their ages and grade levels.[11] Over 135 merit badges can be earned by Scouts for learning and demonstrating various skills.


Teacher Resources: 


  • To celebrate National Boy Scouts Day, invite a local troop leader to come to your class and tell your students about the organization and programs BSA offers. Are any of your students Scouts? Ask them to demonstrate some of the skills they’ve learned in BSA and showcase their merit badges.

  • “Boy Scouts of America (1910-1922): Topics in Chronicling America” by the Library of Congress: These primary sources from the Library of Congress show what early Scouting days were like. Pair students or put them in groups and assign different newspaper articles to read and study the photographs. Ask them how modern-day BSA is similar and different from BSA 114 years ago.


February 14, 2024: Valentine’s Day


On Wednesdays and Valentine’s Day (which happens to be on a Wednesday this year), we wear pink — or red. However you participate in Valentine’s Day, it’s fun to celebrate friendship and romance with handmade or store-bought valentines, candies, and chocolates. The holiday has a long tradition of being celebrated with alentine greetings dating as far back as the Middle Ages when it was first associated with love.[12] 


Prior to the Middle Ages, Valentine’s Day began as a Catholic festival to honor the life and martyrdom of St. Valentine. The religious holiday was designated on February 14 by Pope Gelasius in the fifth century.[13] It’s believed that Pope Gelasius chose this date because it is the presumed anniversary of St. Valentine’s death. Who St. Valentine was is up for debate because there may have been two martyred Valentines who lived in the 200s A.D. in the Roman Empire, or they could have been the same person.


According to some traditions, St. Valentine was a priest who was persecuted by Roman Emperor Claudius II Gothicus in 270 A.D. The legend says that he signed a letter to his jailer’s daughter “from your Valentine.”[14] Another possibility is that the holiday was named after St. Valentine of Terni, Italy.[15] He is believed to have performed marriage ceremonies that defied Emperor Claudius II Gothicus’s orders that young men were to serve as soldiers and could not get married.[16] Since the life and legacy of St. Valentine himself are unclear, the Catholic Church withdrew St. Valentine’s Day from its liturgical calendar in 1969.[17] 


Just as the namesake of Valentine’s Day is a mystery, so is the pagan connection the holiday may have. Lupercalia was a Roman festival that took place on February 15. It celebrated fertility and the beginning of spring.[18] Roman priests known as the Luperci began the festival with a ceremonial sacrifice of a goat and a dog in a cave to honor the Roman founders, Romulus and Remus. The festival culminated in a matchmaking lottery for the men and women in the town. Pope Gelasius banned 19 Lupercalia in the 5th century. Whether Valentine’s Day was meant as a replacement for the pagan holiday or coincidentally fell on the day before the Roman holiday took place is unknown.[19]


Esther A. Howland designed and sold this handmade valentine. (Courtesy of The Met - public domain.)

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the origins of the holiday, Valentine’s Day became associated with romance and grew in popularity in the 17th century in Great Britain. In Great Britain, handwritten cards and small gifts were exchanged in the mid-18th century. Printed cards were purchased and given to friends and family beginning in 1900. In America, handmade cards were given to people in the early 1700s. These gave way to commercially produced cards in the 1800s. Esther A. Howland, nicknamed the “Mother of the Valentine,” sold her version of these valentines crafted with lace and ribbons throughout the mid-1800s.[20] 


Today, approximately 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are bought and exchanged every year, according to the Greeting Card Association. This makes Valentine’s Day the second most popular holiday for greeting cards after Christmas![21]


Teacher Resources:



 

Sources:


[1]  Franklin, Jonathan. “Here’s the story behind Black History Month — and why it’s celebrated in February.” NPR, 1 February 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/02/01/1075623826/why-is-february-black-history-month. Accessed 1 February 2024.

[2] Luebering, J.E.. "Carter G. Woodson". Encyclopedia Britannica, 15 Dec. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Carter-G-Woodson. Accessed 1 February 2024.

[3]  Franklin, Jonathan. “Here’s the story behind Black History Month — and why it’s celebrated in February.” NPR, 1 February 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/02/01/1075623826/why-is-february-black-history-month. Accessed 1 February 2024.

[4]Scott, Daryl Michael. “February is Black History Month.” The Library of Congress | Black History Month, https://www.blackhistorymonth.gov/About.html.

[5] “National Boy Scouts Day – February 8.” National Day Calendar, https://www.nationaldaycalendar.com/national-day/national-boy-scouts-day-february-8. Accessed 2 February 2024.

[6] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Boy Scouts". Encyclopedia Britannica, 3 Nov. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Boy-Scouts. Accessed 2 February 2024.

[7] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell". Encyclopedia Britannica, 4 Jan. 2024, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Robert-Stephenson-Smyth-Baden-Powell-1st-Baron-Baden-Powell. Accessed 7 February 2024.

[8] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Boy Scouts". Encyclopedia Britannica, 3 Nov. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Boy-Scouts. Accessed 2 February 2024.

[9] “Founders of the BSA.” Boy Scouts of America, https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/founders.pdf. Accessed 2 February 2024.

[10] “About the BSA.” Boy Scouts of America, https://www.scouting.org/about/. Accessed 7 February 2024.

[11] Boy Scouts of America, https://www.scouting.org/. Accessed 2 February 2024.

[12] History.com Editors. “History of Valentine’s Day.” 19 January 2024, https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2. Accessed 5 February 2024.

[13] History.com Editors. “History of Valentine’s Day.” 19 January 2024, https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2. Accessed 5 February 2024.

[14] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Valentine’s Day". Encyclopedia Britannica, 2 Feb. 2024, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Valentines-Day. Accessed 5 February 2024.

[15] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Valentine’s Day". Encyclopedia Britannica, 2 Feb. 2024, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Valentines-Day. Accessed 5 February 2024.

[16] History.com Editors. “History of Valentine’s Day.” 19 January 2024, https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2. Accessed 5 February 2024.

[17] Rotty, Derek. “Who & What Do Catholics Celebrate on February 14?” Catholic Exchange, 14 February 2019, https://catholicexchange.com/who-what-do-catholics-celebrate-on-february-14/. Accessed 8 February 2024.

[18] Seipel, Arnie. “The dark origins of Valentine’s Day.” National Public Radio, https://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133693152/the-dark-origins-of-valentines-day. Accessed 2 February 2024.

[19] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Valentine’s Day". Encyclopedia Britannica, 2 Feb. 2024, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Valentines-Day. Accessed 5 February 2024.

[20] History.com Editors. “History of Valentine’s Day.” 19 January 2024, https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2. Accessed 5 February 2024.

[21] Cavanaugh, Ray. “See the Valentine’s Day Cards That Changed How Americans Express Their Love.” TIME Magazine, 10 February 2017, https://time.com/4663003/esther-howland-valentines/. Accessed 8 February 2024.

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