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by Dava Della, Lifestyles editor


In 1955, Rosa Parks marked a pivotal event in the civil rights movement when she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala. bus for a white male passenger. The incident landed her in jail and sparked a city-wide bus boycott. The end result: a Supreme Court ruling that segregation on city buses is unconstitutional.

In 1962, Jackie Robinson (1919-1972), the first African-American to play in the modern major leagues, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Dr. Carter Woodson.


Two years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) to the U.S. Supreme Court as the first black justice. Add the great Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth to the list, and you have the names of people who fought actively over the years for justice and equality for black people. Their legacies stand as a pillar of strength, inspiration and hope for all generations.

February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate the many accomplishments, achievements and struggles of Black Americans. The observance of Black History Month has gradually evolved into a band of many ethnic groups seeking respect and a mutual understanding of cultural differences.

Black History Month evolved in 1926 from Negro History Week by Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson (1875-1950), a Harvard Ph.D. and founder of the widely respected Journal of Negro History. Woodson launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history.

By establishing the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, an organizer of Black History Month events, Woodson trained Black historians in making sure that the true facts of the contributions of Afro-Americans were properly and adequately presented in history textbooks. He dedicated his life to collecting, preserving and publishing these documents, a task that would later gain a respectable and rightful place in books worldwide.

Woodson’s organization changed the word negro to Black in 1972 due to pressure stemming from a group of young delegates at a Cincinnati, Ohio convention. They said the name change focused on “the new thinking of Black Americans, and indicated both the new recognition of African background and the black person’s appreciation of himself as an individual, a citizen and a contributor to the American scene.”

National recognition expanded the week’s celebration to a month during the 1976 American bicentennial, as a way to provide more time for programs, observances and celebrations.

The month of February was selected in deference to Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, who were both born in that month. Douglass (1817-1895), who fought in defense for women’s rights and equal opportunity, was a national figure in the crusade to end slavery in America. February is also the birth month of Barbara Jordan, the first black woman from the south to serve in the U.S. House of epresentatives.

Since 1926, the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History has established a national theme each year in celebration of Black History Month. This year’s theme, “The Souls of Black Folks,” gets its name from the 1903 book written by William Edward Burghardt DuBois, otherwise known as W.E.B. DuBois. The theme invites us to reflect on the journeys and sacrifices endured by black people and also to be appreciative of one’s own culture and individuality.

In stepping towards the future, the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History dreams of the day when the sharing and contribution of all Americans will be appreciated, accepted and understood so that there will be no further need for any ethnic group to call attention to its contributors.


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