Sign above on the campus of Curry College marking a hate crime location
Last Friday, I had the honor of delivering one of the two keynote speeches to the students, faculty, and staff of Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts. It was a sobering experience since the school has been under attack this month with a rash of anti-Semitic and racial incidences that had rocked the campus to its core. Swastikas splattered in plain sight. Racial slurs dotted the campus. And direct threats targeting all Black students came with two dates in February, marking specific violent events that would occur. Fortunately, those dates came and left with no violent action occurring. Nonetheless, the damage has been done, and the campus is traumatized.
Rabbi Dr. Alfred H. Benjamin, the head of Congregation Beth Shalom of the Blue Hills, delivered a compelling keynote that kicked off the two-hour webinar with more than 400 attending. His message opened the door for a new dialogue between the Jewish community in Milton and the campus's student body. The student leaders who addressed the audience were powerful, leaving no room for bigotry and no tolerance for misplaced hatred or ugly outbursts to the LGBTQ community at Curry.
My keynote was titled "Stand Up, Stand Tall, Stand Together," aimed to pull the campus together as they battled the evil in their midst. I encouraged the college to reach out to at least one of the 14 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) also under attack during Black History Month. Those 14 schools, including Howard University and Spelman College, were plagued with bomb threats on or around February 1st at the beginning of the month celebrating African American achievement.
None of this is what Dr. Carter G.Woodson had visualized when he founded Negro History Week in 1926. (That week morphed into Black History Month by the mid-1970s.) He envisioned a week celebrating the achievements and historical significance of Black people, countering the oppressive discrimination that gripped the nation during that era. I am sure that Dr. Woodson would have anticipated some 96 years into the future that this nation would have solved its age-old cancerous problems concerning the lack of respect for race, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
Sadly the hate cancer never left and is embedded in new layers of resentment, retrenchment, and resilience. That is no recipe for progress. That's a formula for holding our country back and keeping us from progressing to a more just and equitable state for all.
Black History Month was never intended to be marginalized and contained in a 28 day rinse and repeat cycle of historical facts. It was designed to awaken our homage to the past while invigorating our knowledge of today as we plan for the future. Black History IS American History because it reminds us that the elevator, traffic light, and ironing board all had something to do with the ingenuity, skills, and creativity of Black inventors.
Check out my list of 25 Black inventors who changed America, and let's celebrate the real reason why Black History Month is such a special time of year for our nation. And may the vitality of student power at Howard University, Spelman College, and Curry College fend off the hate thrill-seekers whose plans for destruction and discrimination must be crushed in their tracks.
See the list of Black Inventors Here
25 Black Inventors Who Changed America
Blood Plasma Bag
Air Conditioning Unit
Frederick M Jones
Auto Cut-Off Switch
Granville T. Woods
Auto Fishing Device
George Washington Carver
Thousands of Uses for the Peanut
Laser Surgical Device
William H. Richardson
Alexander P. Ashbourne
Fire Escape Ladder
Joseph W. Winters
Madame C. J. Walker
Black Hair Care Empire
Improved Golf Tee
George T. Grant
Gong and Signal Chair for Hotels
3-D Optical Illusion Device
Electric Light Bulb Filament
Permanent (Hair) Waving Machine
The shortest month of the year should not limit the expansive contributions of Black people throughout the United States and the Americas. We salute African Americans' sacrifices, dreams, hopes, and opportunities, from Phyllis Wheatley to Dr. Ralph David Abernathy to Rev. Karla Cooper, who represent the best of our race.
Black History IS American History, and it should matter to ALL people throughout the land.
-Carole Copeland Thomas
Black History Month and Dr. Carter G.Woodson
During the dawning decades of the twentieth century, it was commonly presumed that black people had little history besides the subjugation of slavery. Today, it is clear that blacks have significantly impacted the development of the social, political, and economic structures of the United States and the world. Credit for the evolving awareness of the true place of blacks in history can, in large part, be bestowed on one man, Carter G. Woodson. And, his brainchild the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc. is continuing Woodson's tradition of disseminating information about black life, history and culture to the global community.
Known as the "Father of Black History," Woodson (1875-1950) was the son of former slaves and understood how important gaining a proper education is when striving to secure and make the most out of one's divine right of freedom. Although he did not begin his formal education until he was 20 years old, his dedication to study enabled him to earn a high school diploma in West Virginia and bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Chicago in just a few years.
In 1912, Woodson became the second African American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard University.
Recognizing the dearth of information on the accomplishments of blacks in 1915, Dr. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).
Under Woodson's pioneering leadership, the Association created research and publication outlets for black scholars with the establishment of the Journal of Negro History (1916) and the Negro History Bulletin (1937), which garners a popular public appeal.
In 1926, Dr. Woodson initiated the celebration of Negro History Week, which corresponded with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, this celebration was expanded to include the entire month of February, and today Black History Month garners support throughout the country as people of all ethnic and social backgrounds discuss the black experience. ASALH views the promotion of Black History Month as one of the most important components of advancing Dr. Woodson's legacy.
In honor of all the work that Dr. Carter G. Woodson has done to promote the study of African American History, an ornament of Woodson hangs on the White House's Christmas tree each year.
Source: Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)
By Korey Bowers Brown
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Carole Copeland Thomas is a 27 year speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in global diversity, empowerment, multiculturalism and leadership issues.