Voice Box: Black History Month

100 years of celebrating black history

Staff Writer

For the last 100 years, the United States has celebrated black history during the month of February. However, it hasn’t always been known as Black History Month.

In 1915, two school teachers from Washington D.C. would change the way African American history and culture was viewed. Carter G. Woodson and William B. Hartgrove attended the national celebration of the Lincoln Jubilee, which also marked 50 years since the Emancipation.

After the event, the two men held a meeting focused on creating an organization that recognized the significant contributions to society that African Americans had made.

They formed an organization called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). This year, the group celebrates their centennial with a dedication to the founders.

In 1926, Woodson originally established the holiday as Negro History week. Since then, the week has progressed into a month-long celebration, but why choose February?

Abraham Lincoln, the president in office when slavery was abolished, was born on Feb. 12, 1809.

The first African American to hold a high U.S. government rank was Frederick Douglass. He was a former slave and a strong believer in human rights. Douglass was born on Feb. 14, 1818.

Other events have occurred throughout the month of February that add to the celebration, such as the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People  in 1809.

Since 1976, the celebration of black history has extended throughout the entire month of February instead of just the second week.


Black history month events at WCC

The Spirit of Harriet Tubman

When: Wednesday, Feb. 18, noon-6 p.m.
Where: WCC, ML Building, Towsley Auditorium
Price: Noon show – free
6 p.m. show – $5 for students, faculty and staff, $10 for the public Performance details

The Other Tradition of Race Relations: History of Interracial Cooperation

Richard Thomas, a Michigan State University history professor, will be leading a discussion about dispelling racial segregation.

When: Thursday, Feb. 19, 11:30 a.m.
Where: LA 375
Price: Free


5 unknown facts about black heroes

  1. Martin Luther King Jr.

    MLKKing certainly left his mark when he was assassinated on Apr. 4, 1968. An avid social activist and Baptist minister, he led the U.S. Civil Rights Movement throughout the later years of the 1960s, until his death.

    You might not know:King was a big fan of Star Trek and a big fan of Nichelle Nichols, an African American actress who played a lieutenant on the USS Enterprise. Nichols’ role was one of the first in which a black actress portrayed a character other than a servant. When she considered leaving the series, King personally reached out to her and urged her to stay.

  2. Rosa Parks

    Rosa ParksIn the winter of 1955, Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. She was arrested but as a result helped to create an event, the Montgomery bus boycott, a catalyst to the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.

    You might not know: In a 1995 interview with Parks, she cleared up a some widely held misconceptions. Her story is often told with her sitting in the front of the bus. She was actually sitting in the “black section” which was toward the back of the bus. When all of the seats reserved for white people were taken, that’s when Parks was asked to stand up. Many also believe that she claimed her feet hurt. Instead, she simply stated that she “did feel determined to take this as an opportunity to let it be known that I did not want to be treated in that manner and that people have endured it far too long.”

  3. Louis Armstrong

    Louis ArmstrongArmstrong, also referred to as the “the Great Satchmo” or “the Father of Jazz,” was mostly known for singing and playing trumpet.  In the late ‘60s, he released one of his greatest hits, “What a Wonderful World.”

    You might not know: His home, located in Queens, New York, was deemed a national landmark in 1977. Today, it is also a museum.

  4. Harriet Tubman

    Harriet TubmanOne of the famous “conductors” for the Underground Railroad, Tubman helped at least 300 slaves journey to their freedom. She made 19 trips from the North to South to rescue as many people as she could.

    You might not know: Tubman gained notoriety among many “conductors” on the railroad because she was so successful.“I can say one thing most other conductors can’t say,” she said. “I never ran my train off the tracks an I never lost a single passenger.”Slaveholders offered a $40,000 award to anyone who captured Tubman.

  5. Jackie Robinson

    Jackie RobinsonAt the age of 28, Robinson became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball. He received the Rookie of the Year award in 1947.

    You might not know: Although Robinson shined when he played baseball, he partook in a few other sports during his college years. When attending the University of California Los Angeles, Robinson became the first student to have letters in four different sports in one season. In addition to baseball, he played basketball, football, and was a long jumper in track and field.


5 overlooked African-Americans to celebrate

  1. Hattie McDaniel

    Hattie McDanielIn 1940, McDaniel made waves on the big screen when she became the first African American woman to win an Academy Award for her performance in “Gone With the Wind.” Ironically, she sat at a blacks-only table during the Oscar event.

    In her acting career, McDaniel appeared in more than 300 films during the ‘30s and ‘40s, though she was only credited for about 80. She was also the first black woman to sing on the radio in the U.S.

  2. George Crum

    George CrumIn 1953, Crum, a chef of Native American and African American descent, stumbled into history when he attempted to satisfy a fussy customer at Moon Lake Lodge Resort in Saratoga Springs, New York.

    After the customer complained that his french fries were too thick, Crum made an order cut so thin, that it became a new dish all together.

    Later on, Crum opened his own restaurant and his invention became known as the potato chip.

  3. James “Cool Papa” Bell

    James BellAlthough Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play Major League Baseball, he was not the first to get the chance.

    In 1951, Bell received the offer to play in the big leagues. Already 48 years old, Bell turned down the position. Bell is regarded as one of the fastest baseball players in history. His career began in 1922 and lasted for more than 25 years. Bell once stole 175 bases in a 200-game season, according to the “Baseball Library.”

  4. Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman

    Bessie ColemanWhen Coleman could not gain admission to any American flight schools because she was a black woman, she did not let her dreams of becoming a pilot subside.

    She taught herself French and moved to France, where, in just seven months, she received her license from the Caudron Brother’s School of Aviation in 1922. She was the first African American to hold an international pilot license.

    When she returned to the U.S., her career specialized in parachuting and aerial stunts. In 1926, at the young age of 34, her life abruptly ended during an accident that occurred during an aerial show rehearsal.

  5. Madam C.J. Walker

    Madam C. J. WalkerAfter enduring many hardships at a young age, Walker became the first African American female millionaire. Widowed at the age of 20, Walker started working with her four brothers at barbershop.

    Overcome with a scalp condition that caused her to start losing her hair, she invented a product that would thicken her hair and wallet. After trying several homemade concoctions, she found a cure to her hair loss and dubbed it Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower.



Students celebrate ‘Black History Month’ at Pro Football Hall of Fame

Students celebrate ‘Black History Month’ at Pro Football Hall of Fame

Matt Thompson

Sports editor

The African American Student Association is planning a trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, to celebrate Black History Month. On Feb. 18, the Hall of Fame will feature former players Ron Mix and Ernie Warlick speaking on unique stories on and off the field. Both players were involved in the famous AFL All-Star game boycott in 1964. The game was supposed to be in New Orleans, but players refused because of unfair treatment to African Americans in the community. Mix, an offensive tackle, was inducted into the Hall in 1979. After football, he went to San Diego to practice law. Warlick played tight end for the Buffalo Bills and went to four pro bowls. “You can’t talk about pro football without talking about African American players,” said history teacher Thornton Perkins. “You got Reggie Brown, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice, Jim Brown, Paul Warfield. I mean the list goes on.” The event begins at 6 p.m.. and tickets are $16 and available through the AASA. The deadline is to purchase tickets is Feb. 15.