by Fern Gillespie
What would Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History Month and founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, think about the disturbing 2023 Black History Month celebration marred by the racism of White supremist Governor DeSantis in Florida and rewritten by the College Board for high school students?
“The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) strongly condemns the actions of Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) to deprive students of accurate knowledge about the African American experience,” writes the official ASALH website. “ASALH believes that DeSantis, the FDOE, and white supremacist forces in dozens of other states are attempting to censure Black historical knowledge in public school curricula. We also condemn the College Board’s revisions which conform to the talking points DeSantis and white supremacists have argued since 2019.”
In 1926, Dr. Woodson initiated the celebration of Negro History Week, which corresponded with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, under President Ford, it was expanded to include the entire month of February. Today, ASALH views the promotion of Black History Month as one of the most important components of advancing Dr.Woodson’s legacy. Born in 1875 and raised by parents who were born enslaved, Dr. Woodson became a scholar, earning a bachelors from Brea College in Kentucky, bachelor and master’s degrees from the University of Chicago and then becoming the second African American to earn a PhD at Harvard University. 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) and embarked on studying, recording and celebrating African American history.
“During these uncertain times in which the very nature of what the Association does—the teaching of areas of Black History which has been legally banned in seven U.S. states as “history that makes people uncomfortable,” writes ASALH. “ASALH presents it’s annual month-long Black History Month Festival with the theme Black Resistance.
In New York, the Manhattan Branch of ASALH is focusing on “Black Resistance” programs and outreach throughout 2023. Under the direction of Ellen Ferebee, President and Dr. Keith Taylor, Vice President, the ASALH Manhattan Branch from 2022. “I’ve always been interested in African-American history. When I was in elementary school many years ago, the only people you heard about were George Washington Carver and a couple of others. This was before Dr. Martin Luther King This was when it was Negro history week. We got very little information except for stories about slavery.”
Ferebee is a veteran Black cultural advocate and is the founder of the Morrisania Doll Society, that holds major Black doll shows in Harlem.
“Our youngsters don’t know enough about Black history. Our college students and young adults who are holding jobs, they need to know about their history,” she said. “The Manhattan Branch of ASALH is looking for youngsters. I’m talking about young people who love history. I want to know about history and are willing to work at and study history.”
On February 28, ASALH will present a Zoom event on protest songs and poems. The program will feature members reciting poems by poet-activists from Langston Hughes to Nikki Giovanni. Upcoming programs include libraries and banning books. For more info on ASALH check out www.asalh.org. For the Manhattan ASALH www.facebook.com/ASALHManhattan and email@example.com