February has been designated as Black History Month by every president since Gerald Ford in 1976. In his official recognition of Black History Month, he urged the nation to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout history.” Carter Woodson, a Harvard grad and activist, was intrinsic in the founding of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History which began celebrating and promoting Negro History Week in 1926. After an overwhelming and nationwide acceptance of the celebration week, Woodson pushed for the week to be changed to a whole month-long celebration, stating that the accomplishments of black Americans should be celebrated throughout the whole year and that one week was not long enough to celebrate. Therefore, in 1976, Negro History Week was nationally recognized as Black History Month.
In 1894, David Robert Lewis became the first black graduate from Purdue University with a B.S. in Civil Engineering. Between Lewis’ graduation in 1894 and the 1970s, not much progress had been made in percentage of black students in the engineering program. Because of this, Edward Barnett and Fred Cooper approached the dean of engineering in 1971 with ideas to help and support black engineers and in 1975 the National Society of Black Engineers was officially founded in universities across the nation. In 1974, the Minority Engineering Program was created at Purdue with Marion Blalock as the head of the program. With more programs created specifically for black engineering students, retention and enrollment rates have risen in the engineering program.