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A Century of Black Life, History, Culture

The Democrat Reporter of Linden, Alabama

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For thirty-nine (39) years, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc. has designated the entire month of February as Black History Month. The designation of the month of February was an attempt by Dr. Carter G. Woodson's Association for the Study of African American Life and History to present and promote an awareness of true facts about contributions and inventions that African Americans made in the social, political, intellectual, and economic developments and structures of the United States and the world. Credited for the evolving awareness of Blacks in history can be bestowed on Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History and the Founder of Black History Month.

Black History Month was initiated in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson as Negro History Week. Dr. Woodson's visionary hope was that through this special observance all Americans would be reminded of their ethnic roots; and in unity, the United States' racial groups would develop mutual respect for all backgrounds, races, and multi-culturalism in the United States. The intention has never been to dictate or limit the exploration of the Black experience, but to bring to the public's attention important developments that merit emphasis involving Blacks in the history of the United States. Dr. Woodson, being aware of racial symbolism in America, wisely chose for Negro History Week, now Black History Month, the period in February which included the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 15).

In 1976, during the Bicentennial -200th Birthday-Celebration of the United States of America, the Association extended the week's celebration to include the entire month of February to provide more time for programs, observances, and celebrations. The month's celebration received widespread support from all over the United States and requests were made to the Association to continue observing it for one month to provide more time for the nation and local communities to have additional African-American-Black History Programs. The annual celebration is a means of keeping the legacy of Dr. Carter G. Woodson alive, as well as, means to continue to promote racial pride, hope, unity, literacy and self-sufficiency. Today, many schools have incorporated Black History courses into their curricula to further increase awareness of contributions made by Blacks in the United States and the world. The celebration still includes Black Americans, as well as, many other ethnic groups.

In 1972, the name of Woodson's Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, founded in 1915, was changed to the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. It is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Incorporated. The name change focused on new thinking by Black Americans and highlighted both the new recognition of African background and an appreciation of Blacks to think of themselves as individuals, citizens, and contributors to the American scene and history. This year, 2015, marks the Centennial Celebration (100th Birthday) of the Association Each year, the Association selects a national or general theme for Black History Month to reflect changes in how people of African descent in the United States have viewed themselves, the influence of social movements on racial ideologies, and the aspirations of the black community, as well as, to explore historical issues of importance to people of African descent and race relations in America.

The Executive Summary of the Association's 2015 Black History Month Theme is as follows: A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture

Over the past century, African American life, history, and culture have become major forces in the United States and the world. In 1915, few could have imagined that African Americans in music, art, and literature would become appreciated by the global community. Fewer still could have predicted the prominence achieved by African Americans, as well as other people of African descent, in shaping world politics, war, and diplomacy. Indeed, it was nearly universally believed that Africans and people of African descent had played no role in the unfolding of history and were a threat to American civilization itself. A century later, few can deny the centrality of African Americans in the making of American history.

This transformation is the result of effort, not chance. Confident that their struggles mattered in human history, black scholars, artists, athletes, and leaders self-consciously used their talents to change how the world viewed African Americans. The New Negro of the post-world War 1 era made modernity their own and gave the world a cornucopia of cultural gifts, including jazz, poetry based on the black vernacular, and an appreciation of African art. African American athletes dominated individual and team sports, changing baseball, track-and-field, football, boxing, and basketball. In a wave of social movements, African American activism transformed race relations, challenged American foreign policy, and became the American conscience on human rights.

While the spotlight often shines on individuals, this movement is the product of organization, of institutions and of institution-builders who gave direction to effort. The National Urban League promoted the Harlem Renaissance. The preservation of the black past became the mission of Arturo Schom burg and Jesse Moorland, leading to the rise of the Schom burg Research Center in Black Culture and Howard University's Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. The vision of Margaret Boroughs and others led to the African American museum movement, leading to the creation of black museums throughout the nation, culminating with the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. Student activism of the 1960's resulted in the Black Studies Movement and the creation of black professional associations, including the National Council of Black Studies, and a host of doctoral programs at major American universities.

At the dawn of these strivings and at all points along the road, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) has played a vital role. When he founded the Association in 1915, Carter G. Woodson labored under the belief that historical truth would crush falsehoods and usher in a new era of equality, opportunity, and racial democracy, and it has been its charge for a century. In honor of this milestone, ASALH has selected "A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture" as the 2015 National Black History theme.

During the dawning decades of the twentieth century, it was commonly presumed that Black people had little history besides the subjugation of slavery. Today, it is clear that blacks have significantly impacted the development of the social, political, and economic structures of the United Stated and the world.

Again, credit for the evolving awareness of the true place of Blacks in history is largely bestowed on one man, Carter G. Woodson. His brainchild, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc. is continuing Woodson's tradition of disseminating information about black life, history and culture to the global community.

Black history will continue to be an important part of American and world history: however, we must continue to tell the stories. ASALH wants to ensure that all people continue to have knowledge about and recognize the contributions of people of African descent for centuries to come.

When you support ASALH and its programs you are ensuring that African American history and culture is preserved for future generation.Characteristic of the thinking of Dr Carter G Woodson, the Father of Black History and the Founder of Black History Month IF WE DON'T TELL THEM, THE WORLD WILL NEVER KNOW."

Copyright 2015 The Democrat Reporter, Linden, Alabama. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: January 29, 2015

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