Black history comes alive on the Edinboro campus

Category:  News
Wednesday, February 21st, 2018 at 7:34 PM
Black history comes alive on the Edinboro campus by Zeila Hobson

Black History Month started as a mere seven days. The second week in February was dubbed “Negro History Week” by a historian, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, in 1926. Chosen because the birthdays of Frederick Douglas (Feb. 14) and Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) fall within it, the week was meant to highlight the historical contributions of African Americans that were otherwise overlooked. Woodson looked to further black education in his life’s work, stating, “This crusade is much more important than the anti-lynching movement, because there would be no lynching if it did not start in the schoolroom.”

While earning a master’s degree in history from the University of Chicago, along with a doctorate of the same nature from Harvard, Woodson became disenfranchised with the lack of African American representation taught in American schools as he navigated what he saw as whitewashed literature. He founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 and began publishing The Journal of Negro History in 1916. A little over a decade later, Woodson pursued integrating black history with the American history taught at all levels of the education system with “Negro History Week.”

The week of celebration was met with derision in every state but gained momentum nonetheless. A flood of literature sparked a thirst for the previously ignored accomplishments of black Americans. Representation emboldened the black community and the white middle class experienced an awakening regarding black history and culture. Still, decades later in the mid-1960s, “the most popular textbook for eighth grade U.S. history classes mentioned only two black people in the entire century of history that had transpired since the Civil War,” according to TIME Magazine.

Colleges and universities nationwide recognized the entire month of February as Black History Month during the hotbed of civil rights activism that saturated the 1960s and ‘70s. Kent State University was the first to commit to a month-long celebration in February of 1970, after a year of propositioning from black educators and students; soon, all self-respecting institutions of higher learning followed suit and have ever since.

Black History Month celebrations on Edinboro’s campus included the Living History Museum in Pogue.

The Living Museum sprang up in Pogue Student Center and continues until Feb. 26 as part of Edinboro’s salute to the celebration. Dolontai Pond, graduate assistant for the Center of Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), organized the event with the help of the director of the CDI, Petrina Marrero, and Academic Success Coordinator LaTessa Black.

Pond said he felt Black History Month has lost its potency in recent years and that people of all colors need to be reminded that, “Black history is a living thing.” He asserted that it is constantly evolving, with new figures contributing to black excellence every day.

To portray this idea, 18 students and two faculty members committed to dressing as influential African Americans and standing silent and statuesque next to plaques outlining their respective figure’s contribution to equality for citizens of color, breathing the life back into black history.

Tuesday, Feb. 13 featured Marrero as Billie Holiday, the first African American female to sing with an all-white orchestra when she performed with Artie Shaw and his orchestra in 1938.

Angela Davis stood tall and beautiful in Pogue as well. Portrayed by Erika Muhammad, Davis is famous for writing controversial works like “Women, Race, and Class,” her affiliation with the Black Panthers, and for spending 18 months in a prison cell for a kidnapping and murder she did not commit.

Anjali Wright stood as Ida B. Wells, who established several civil rights organizations in the late 1800s, including the National Association of Colored Women.

The leader of the civil rights movement of the mid to late 20th century was also present. Caleb Richardson III sat regally as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose peaceful protest approach and “I Have A Dream Speech” made him the face of the movement forevermore.

The final exhibition of CDI’s Living Museum will be held on Feb. 26 in the lobby of Pogue Student Center.

Zeila Hobson can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

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