On 2 February 2017, President Trump issued a proclamation honoring February as “African-American History Month”:
As we celebrate National African American History Month, we recognize the heritage and achievements of African Americans. The contributions African Americans have made and continue to make are an integral part of our society, and the history of African Americans exemplifies the resilience and innovative spirit that continue to make our Nation great.
Web sites such as the TMZ gossip site noticed that President Trump’s proclamation used the term “African-American History Month” instead of “Black History Month” and published an item stating that he had “changed the name” of the month-long observance. TMZ even went as far as stating that “every U.S. president since 1976 had designated February as Black History Month … Same sentiment, different name?”
Although it’s true that President Trump used the term “African-American History Month” in his proclamation, it’s disingenuous to say that he “renamed” the observance or to suggest that he was the first president to apply that terminology. In fact, the terms “Black History Month” and “African-American History Month” have been nearly interchangeable since President Gerald Ford issued the first proclamation concerning the observance.
President Ford used the term “Black History Month” in 1976, but Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush all used the term “National African American History” month in at least one of their yearly proclamations. Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, used a combination of the two terms and honored “National Afro-American (Black) History Month.”
Legislation concerning the month-long observance has also gone back and forth between the two descriptors. In 1996, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution commemorating “Black History Month and contributions of African-American United States Senators,” but when Congress passed a similar measure in 1986 designating February as a national month of observance, they employed the term “Black (Afro-American) History Month.”
TMZ edited their article to state that “Donald Trump, turns out, did not officially change Black History Month to National African American History Month … it’s been that way for decades.”
Bush, George W. “President Bush Celebrates African American History Month.”
White House. 12 February 2008.
Obama, Barack. “Presidential Proclamation — National African American History Month, 2015.”
White House. 30 January 2015.
Trump, Donald. “President Donald J. Trump Proclaims February As National African American History Month.”
White House. 2 February 2017.