Zoe Charles

February is Black History Month in the United States. Black History Month, which was first recognized on a national level in 1976 by President Gerald Ford is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. According to History.com, Ford claimed Black History Month aims to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

According to History.com, “Also known as African American History Month, the event grew out of ‘Negro History Week,’ the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history.”

Black History Month originally began as a week-long celebration founded by Carter G. Woodson. According to History.com, “Woodson believed that young African Americans in the early 20th century were not being taught enough of their own heritage and the achievements of their ancestors. To get his message out, Woodson first turned to his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, which created Negro History and Literature Week in 1924. But Woodson wanted a wider celebration, and he decided the ASNLH should take on the task itself.”

It is important to note that today the ASNLH has been renamed as the Association for the Study of African American History.

According to History.com, “In February 1926, Woodson sent out a press release announcing the first Negro History Week. He chose February because the month contained the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two prominent men whose historic achievements African Americans already celebrated. (Lincoln’s birthday was February 12; Douglass, a former slave, hadn’t known his actual birthday, but had marked the occasion on February 14.)”

As the Civil Rights movement began to prosper in the United States, the desire for appreciation of Black history and culture did so too. This effort led to the change from Black History week to Black History month.

According to History.com, “With the rise of the civil rights and Black Power movements in the 1960s, young African Americans on college campuses were becoming increasingly conscious of the historic dimension of their experience. Younger members of the ASNLH (which later became the Association for the Study of African American History) urged the organization to change with the times, including the official shift to a month-long celebration of Black history. In 1976, on the 50th anniversary of the first Negro History Week, the Association officially made the shift to Black History Month.”

Every year since, in addition to the focus on appreciating Black History and Influence on a large scale, a specific theme geared towards equality and empathy of the Black community is selected. The 2021 theme of Black History Month is The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.

According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, “The Black family has been a topic of study in many disciplines—history, literature, the visual arts and film studies, sociology, anthropology, and social policy. Its representation, identity, and diversity have been reverenced, stereotyped, and vilified from the days of slavery to our own time. The black family knows no single location, since family reunions and genetic-ancestry searches testify to the spread of family members across states, nations, and continents. [. . .] [t]he family offers a rich tapestry of images for exploring the African American past and present.”

In celebration of Black History Month Oklahoma Baptist University sent out an email to all students that said, “All month there will be a graphic display in the Lower GC, highlighting influential black leaders such as MLK Jr., Clara Luper, Toni Morrison, Rev. John Reed, Jr., and Harry T. Burleigh. Please stop by and read their bios to learn more about their passion and achievements that have impacted Oklahoma, the U.S. and the world.”

Brock Brown, Sophomore Musical Arts Major and President of OBU’s Black Students Association, believes that students should strive to become more knowledgeable about Black History and Culture.

“The old saying goes, ‘there are two sides to every story.’ When we, as students, are taught history, we are only taught what is ‘comfortable.’ In other words, from the perspective of European eyes. We are taught a ‘one-way-only’ history, so to speak. Instead, we should strive to be knowledgeable about Black History so that we can be agents of change and reconciliation in a world that seeks to silence and dismantle our history.”

OBU’s BSA will be hosting the following events in honor of Black History Month.

Jazz Poetry Night will be February 11, from 7:00p.m.-9:00p.m. in the Lower GC.

The Conversation #BeingBlackatOBU February 15, from 7:00p.m.-9:15p.m. in the Upper GC with special guest speakers Brenda Palmer, a Special Education Teacher and Social Justice and Equity Sponsor Westmoore HS-Moore, OK and Beverly Glover Interim Vice President of University Culture and OBU.

A special Black History month Chapel will take place February 22 with featured guest speaker Manager Darryl Field, a Pastor at Union Missionary Baptist Church.

Finally, a Black History Quiz Bowl will take place February 26, from 7:00p.m.-9:00p.m. in the GC Gathering Room.

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