On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Gospel Recording artist, radio and TV host, Dr. Bobby Jones; Wil Haygood, Washington Post reporter and author of “The Butler: A Witness to History;” Natalie Madeira Cofield, President & CEO of the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce, located in Austin, TX; and the late Robert C. Maynard, journalist, newspaper publisher, editor and former owner of the Oakland (CA) Tribune newspaper.
We owe the celebration of Black History Month, and more importantly, the study of black history, to Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Born to parents who were former slaves, he spent his childhood working in the Kentucky coal mines and enrolled in high school at age twenty. He graduated within two years and later went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. The scholar was disturbed to find in his studies that history books largely ignored the African American population-and when African Americans did figure into the picture; it was generally in ways that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time.
Woodson, always one to act on his ambitions, decided to take on the challenge of writing African Americans into the nation’s history. He established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now called the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History) in 1915, and a year later founded the widely respected Journal of Negro History. In 1926, he launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history.
In 1976, the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Negro History Week and the bicentennial of the United States’ independence, Black History Week was expanded to Black History Month. Ever since then, Black History Month has been celebrated in February around the nation.