Students celebrate black history

Erika Ward

The 2015 theme for Black History Month is “A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture.” Throughout this month, Western Illinois University will celebrate African-American history with a number of scheduled activities on campus.

In 1976, Gerald Ford became the first president to recognize Black History Month. Thirty-nine years later, the U.S. still embraces the history of African-Americans during the month of February.

Ashley Daniels, a communications major, believes that acknowledging Black History Month is important because African-Americans influence the world.

“Without some of the things that African-Americans did, like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, the world would be very different from what it is now,” Daniels said.

Tuesdays consist of a movie series to commemorate black history in Morgan Hall. On Wednesdays, students have the opportunity to attend a lecture series touching on many issues facing African-American culture.

Throughout the entire month, Malpass Library will have the Civil Rights photography display set up. A variety of other activities are being hosted and can be found on the Western Illinois University website.

Danielle Gray, a communication sciences and disorders major, said that February gives us a chance to remember the Civil Rights fight and the leaders that helped to shape the movement.

“Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for equality and justice in America,” Gray said. “Black History Month gives us a chance to remember them for their good works.”

Black History Month began in 1915, 50 years after slavery was abolished in the U.S. by the 13th Amendment.  

Historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland created the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), known today as the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH).   

In 1926, this group chose the second week of February to sponsor a national Negro History Week.  This week was chosen because of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’s birthdays.

In the ’60s during the Civil Rights Movement, black identity became a more prominent issue in the U.S., thus it triggered the change from Negro History Week to Black History Month.  

Black History Month was not recognized nationally until President Ford told the American citizens to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”  Every president after Ford has recognized February as Black History Month with a specific theme being endorsed.

Adrienne Tinsley, a communications major, believes that Black History Month is a great opportunity for people to get educated about African-American history.

“(Black History Month) highlights African-Americans who aren’t in regular history books,” Tinsley said.  “It gives people a chance to learn about all of them.”

Black History Month activities at Western are sponsored by the Department of African American Studies as well as the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center based out of the Multicultural Center on campus.

“Black History Month increases our knowledge of African-Americans who paved the way for us to be where we are today,” Gray said.