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Mary Church Terrell Creates “Douglass Day”

Education

1897

Douglass Day celebrates Frederick Douglass’s birthday and legacy.

Mary Church Terrell (1863–1954) was an educator, activist, and leader of the National Association of Colored Women. She was also the first Black woman to serve on the District of Columbia’s Board of Education. She believed knowledge of African American history was central to the struggle for racial equality.

In 1897 she established Frederick Douglass’s birthday on February 14 as a holiday to commemorate his legacy. Black school children studied Douglass’s life and accomplishments during the annual celebration of Douglass Day. The tradition inspired historian Carter G. Woodson to create Negro History Week in 1926. Today we celebrate February as Black History Month.