We owe the celebration of Black History Month,
and more importantly, the study of black history, to Dr. Carter G. Woodson.
Born in 1875 in Buckingham County, Virginia, Woodson spent his childhood
working in the Kentucky coalmines. He entered high school at the age of 20
and taught elementary school for two years after his graduation. He later
studied at Berea College, the University of Chicago, and Harvard University,
receiving a Ph.D. degree from Harvard in 1912. He was dean of the School of
Liberal Arts at Howard University from 1919 to 1920 and of West Virginia
Institute (now West Virginia State College) from 1920 to 1922.
As Woodson studied, he couldn’t help but see
the dearth of information in American history on the accomplishments of
blacks. So he decided to take on the challenge of giving black Americans
their rightful place in the nation’s history. In 1915, he established the
Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now called the
Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, and a year
later founded the widely respected Journal of Negro History. In 1926, he
launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to
the contributions of black people throughout American history.
Woodson chose the second week of February for
Negro History Week because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly
influenced the black American population, Frederick Douglass and Abraham
Lincoln. February was a good choice for other reasons as well.
W.E.B. DuBois, an important civil rights leader
and co-founder of the NAACP was born in February, 1868:
The 15th Amendment, granting blacks the right to vote, was passed
in February 1870 and the first black U.S. senator, Hiram R. Revels, took his
oath of office the same month.
The National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People was founded by a group of concerned black and white citizens
in New York City in February 1909.
And, in what would become a civil rights
movement milestone, a group of black Greensboro, N.C., college students
began a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in February 1960.
Although blacks have been in America at least as far back as colonial times,
it was not until the 20th century that they gained a respectable presence in
the history books, thanks to the courage and hard work of leaders like
Carter G. Woodson.
In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus read from the book of
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Isaiah 61:1-2, NIV).
These words of the prophet Isaiah foretold the
ministry of Jesus, and they continue to ring true as faithful Christians
commit themselves to letting Jesus live in them to further deliverance and
hope to the oppressed.
I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of LIFE.