Black history month is a time when people of African ancestry can come together in memory of our rich past. During the month of February, we honor the legacy of people of the African Diaspora, their achievements and contributions throughout history. It is an opportunity for others to learn about the experiences and triumphs against odds and obstacles.
It is a time to acknowledge the vital role that African Americans have played throughout our shared history in a culturally diverse world. At this time, African-American history becomes the centerpiece of many communities in the United States, as well as in Canada, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Central America and South America.
Let’s acknowledge the father of black history, Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson (1875-1950). Dr. Woodson, an author and historian, started the Black History Week for the second week of February in 1926 as a cultural institution that focused on African American identity and history.
Eventually, the movement expanded into Black History Month in 1976. Dr. Woodson was born in Virginia in 1875 to former slaves who could not read or write. Through hard work and diligence, he became the second African American to graduate with a Ph.D. from Harvard University.
Dr. Woodson wrote many books over the course of his career, most notably the “Miseducation of the Negro” (1933). With his dedicated focus, he lobbied schools and organizations to participate in special programs to encourage the study of African-American history. In addition, he established the “Journal of Negro History,” “The Negro History Bulletin” in 1937 and formed the African-American owned Associated Publishers Press in 1921.
In 1915, Dr. Woodson helped found the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which was later named the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). It is the mission of ASALH to promote, research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about black life, history and culture to the global community.
Here in St Petersburg, we are blessed to have our own Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum at 230 9th Ave. S. The museum offers a continuous flow of African-American cultural exhibits and activities in art, music and special presentations front and center in which the community can participate.
We are blessed to finally have the St Petersburg Association for the Study of African American Life and History branch. The St. Petersburg ASALH Inc. welcomes The Weekly Challenger readers to be a part of the new weekly black history articles. In the words of Dr. Woodson:
We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in History…The case of the Negro is well taken care of when it is shown how he has influenced the development of civilization.”
Let’s celebrate Black History Month…we are blessed. We are blessed to have had Dr. Woodson’s leadership and his knowledge; his great ideas that push us forward to embrace our collective memory and showcase our history — “front and center.”
Jennifer Gamble-Theard, M.Ed. is a retired Pinellas County educator in the study of history and language. She is also the historian for the St. Petersburg Branch of ASALH.