February is Black History Month, and this week I’d like to share a little background on how that celebration came to be. In the early part of the twentieth century historian Carter G. Woodson, became convinced that African American history and the history of other cultures was being ignored or misrepresented among scholars, and he saw a need for research into the neglected past of African Americans. Woodson’s life was devoted to historical research, and he worked to preserve the history of African Americans. In the 1920s Mr. Woodson established Black History Week to commemorate and celebrate the contributions people of African descent made to our country. The first celebration occurred on February 12, 1926. For many years, the second week of February was set aside for this celebration to coincide with the birthdays of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, as part of the nation’s bicentennial, the week was expanded into Black History Month. Each year since then U.S. presidents proclaim February as National African-American History Month.
Carter Woodson once wrote: “If you can control a man’s thinking, you don’t have to worry about his actions. If you can determine what a man thinks you do not have to worry about what he will do. If you can make a man believe that he is inferior, you don’t have to compel him to seek an inferior status, he will do so without being told and if you can make a man believe that he is justly an outcast, you don’t have to order him to the back door, he will go to the back door on his own and if there is no back door, the very nature of the man will demand that you build one.” Woodson believed strongly in the importance of educating people about their history and about how to think for themselves, and to take pride in their people’s contributions, as an encouragement to taking charge of their own lives.
Here in Fort Wayne this year, the Allen County Public Library downtown will be holding three educational events in honor of Black History Month. On February 9 at 6:30 PM the monthly meeting of the African American Genealogical Society will be providing tips and methods for researching African American family history. On Sunday, February 19, at 2:00 PM there will be “A Musical Commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” performed by the choral group Heartland Sings in the Main Library Theater, and then folks can visit the library’s Life Stories Center to record their personal memories of the “I Have a Dream” speech from noon to 5:00 PM. Beginning at 10:00 am on Saturday, February 25th, Nichelle M. Hayes, Librarian from the Center for African-American Literature, Culture and Black Experience of the Indianapolis Public Library will present a two-hour seminar on African American Genealogical Research.
Besides Black History Month, February 14th is Valentine’s Day—a celebration of love. On the sign in front of our office we post different sayings throughout the year, and this month I took a line from a 1965 song Dionne Warwick sang called: “What the world needs now is love.” I hope my sign inspires passers-by to find a little more love in their hearts. After all, “It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”
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