Black celebrities marked the beginning of Black History Month by sharing the names of prominent figures who helped with the progress of the African-American community on Feb. 1.

According to, the celebratory month is an extension of "Negro History Week," which was started by historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1926. It took place the second week in February to highlight the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

For decades to come, schools, communities and colleges observed Negro History Week and used it as a time to share the achievements of Black figures. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month. He said it was time to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."

The tradition has carried on with leading Black celebrities looking back in time at the African-Americans who paved the way for their success.

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris shared a GIF celebrating Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress, in 1969.

Former President Barack Obama highlighted the accomplishments of baseball player Jackie Robinson, who would have been 100 on Thursday.

Other celebrities shared lesser-known figures, including LGBTQ activist Marsha P. Johnson, and Aaron Douglas, a leading painter during the Harlem Renaissance.

Click through the gallery below to see the African-Americans who helped make America better.

Sen. Kamala Harris

Shonda Rhimes

Kalen Allen

Barack Obama

Vashti Harrison

Ayanna Pressley

Carmelo Anthony

Congressman David N. Cicilline

Disney Channel

Lauren Underwood

Gingger Shankar


Rep. Ilhan Omar

Daymond John

Julian Castro

USA Gymnastics



Viola Davis

Girl Scouts