Celebrating Black History Month in the Upper West Side
February is Black History Month, and the first Black History Month took place at Kent State University in 1970 after Black educators and the Black United Students proposed a way to honor and highlight the African diaspora’s shared history.
Six years after the first celebration at Kent State, Black History Month was being celebrated all across our country in educational institutions, centers of Black culture and community centers, both great and small. When President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month in 1976, during the celebration of the US Bicentennial, he urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.
In the Black community, Black History Month was met with enthusiastic response; it prompted the creation of Black history clubs, with an increase in interest among teachers, and interest from progressive whites. Today, it was a nationwide event with college majors dedicated entirely to the study of Black History. Taught in schools of all demographics across our nation, names like Fredrick Douglas and Harriet Tubman have become just as synonymous with American history as figures like George Washington and John Adams.
While we have a way to go for true equality in America, we can start by learning our shared history, as Black History is just as much American History as the stories of our white founding fathers. To learn a bit more about Black History, this month and every month of year, check out this local educational resource near your apartment.
Our Composite Nation: Frederick Douglass’ America – The New-York Historical Society is bringing Frederick Douglass’ vision of freedom, citizenship and equal rights to life in a new ongoing special installation opening this February at their headquaters in the Upper West Side.
Less than ten minutes from your Sagamore apartment, a range of artifacts and documents will be on display to illustrate Douglass’ vision, including illustrations from the popular press of the time and scrapbooks of articles by or about Douglass compiled by his sons that also documented his work to usher in a more just country. Visitors will also see speech excerpt from his contemporary, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, who raises the question of gender in step with Douglass’ ideas about racial equality. Political cartoons and a copy of an editorial that Douglass wrote about Chinese immigrants’ right to belong in the U.S. in the Chinese American newspaper are also on view. The maquette of a statue of Douglass erected on the campus of the University of Maryland in 2015, which was gifted to the late Congressman John Lewis, is also on display and a recreation of the Douglass statue, painted to be lifelike, greets visitors to the Museum at the 77th Street entrance.
New York Historical Society 170 Central Park West, New York, NY