We hear about Black History month all the time, but does anyone really know where this tradition originated, or why itʼs such a big deal? The practice dates back to 1926, though blacks were rarely mentioned in history books at this time, until Dr. Carter G. Woodson sought to change this. Born into a family of two former slaves, Woodson graduated high school in two years and later earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University.He was dismayed to find the lack of blacks in history books, so he started the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History to make up for this oversight. To further bring African-Americans to the publicʼs attention, Woodson then launched a Negro History Week which was supposed to highlight the accomplishments of blacks throughout history. One personʼs effort to show his cultureʼs contributions to society has grown into a celebration that includes the whole month of February. He chose the second week of February because it marks the birthdays of two men who had a huge impact on America, Frederick Douglas, a famous abolitionist and Abraham Lincoln, who turned the country upside down in order for slaves to be freed.
These two people are not the only reasons for choosing this time, however. On Feb. 4, the amendment for blacks to vote was passed, breaking down a huge barrier for this community. W.E.B. Du Bois, co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was born on the 23rd and Malcolm X was assasinatedon Feb. 21. Both of these men contributed to the African American cause.
We all can be involved in the festivities of the month simply by making the short trip to the city. Philadelphia is taking part in this tradition in a couple of ways. The Philadelphia 76ers are hosting an African Art Exhibit at all of their home games in February.
The exhibit features artwork from the “African Sculpture Symbols of Culture.” The exhibit is located at the Wachovia Centerʼs Broad Street Atrium. A sampling of traditional masks and figures will be display for visitors to see.
On Wednesday, Feb. 25, a Black History Month Concert and Reading Program is being held. The Marian Anderson Society and Commerce Bank at the Christian Academy are sponsoring the event, which will have some local celebrities in attendance. Students will learn about Marian Anderson, who was actually born in south Philadelphia in 1897 and went on to become the first black singer to perform with the Metropolitan Opera, after touring Europe, all big feats for a black woman at this time. For more information about Philadelphiaʼs events for Black History Month go to www.Philly.com.