Carter Godwin Woodson once said racial prejudice “is merely the logical result of tradition, the inevitable outcome of thorough instruction to the effect that the Negro has never contributed anything to the progress of mankind.”
February is, of course, Black History Month. It has its roots in the establishment of Negro History Week in 1926 by Woodson, (Dec. 19, 1875 – April 3, 1950).
Woodson, an historian, journalist and educator, had lived for a time in the city where I went to college, Huntington, W.Va. He served there as principal of Douglass High School, a segregated school for blacks.
Some years after college, I had the opportunity to do research on him, and I interviewed some people who had known him personally in West Virginia and in Washington, D.C., where he worked later, and who spoke of him in reverent tones. That was more than 35 years ago, and I remain fascinated by his life and legacy.
Woodson’s parents, who had lived in slavery in Virginia, moved to Huntington precisely because it had a black high school, but the family was large and poor. As the eldest of nine children, at 17, Woodson went to southern W.Va. to work in the then booming coal mines to earn money. He studied on his own and attended school sporadically. Finally, he entered Douglass High at age 20, graduating in two years, and went on to become only the second person, after William E.B. Du Bois, to earn a doctorate from Harvard University. Woodson believed in the power of education.
He also felt strongly that the history of African Americans written by whites underrepresented or misrepresented the race, and he devoted his life to redressing that wrong, eventually founding what is now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and the Journal of Negro History.
He wanted the world to know what blacks had contributed and accomplished. Most importantly, he wanted blacks to know it. In establishing “Negro History Week,” Woodson chose the second week of February to include Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, Frederick Douglass’, February 14.
According to the Library of Congress, the public quickly embraced Negro History Week, and it grew in popularity, prompting the creation of black history clubs and an increase in interest among teachers and progressive whites.
President Gerald Ford issued a message on Feb. 10, 1976, during the nation’s bicentennial celebration, recognizing Black History Month in 1976.
“The last quarter-century has finally witnessed significant strides in the full integration of black people into every area of national life,” Ford said. “In celebrating Black History Month, we can take satisfaction from this recent progress in the realization of the ideals envisioned by our Founding Fathers. But, even more than this, we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Black History Month is also celebrated in Canada and the United Kingdom.
Honoring Woodson’s intent, Black History Month is always a good time for us to search our selections for new titles and old favorites from www.diversebooks.net to expand our knowledge of African American history. Through partnerships with a variety of publishers, like Black Classic Press, Africa World Press, the University of Mississippi Press and others, DiverseBooks.net offers an extensive selection of books on African American history.
Here are a few of them:
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C. L. R. James and Creolization: Circles of Influence by Nicole King, $22.50, (List Price: $25), University of Mississippi Press, July 2001, ISBN 9781934110492, pp. 192.
C. L. R. James, (1901-1989), was Trinidad-born scholar who migrated to England and later to the United States. A self-described radical and one of the leading intellectuals of the 20th century, Cyril Lionel Robert James is perhaps best known for his nonfiction: speeches, essays and books. In this book, the author gives closer examination to his fiction and looks at his body of work through the lens of “creolization.” King defines that as a process by which European, African, Amerindian, Asian, and American cultures combine forming hybrid identities and cultures, and she argues that his writings reflect a similar process.
The Cry Was Unity: Communists and African Americans, 1917-1936, by Mark Solomon, $27, (List Price: $30), University of Mississippi Press, December 1998, ISBN: 9781578060955, pp. 400.
Drawing from the Moscow archives of the Communist Inter-national (Comintern), the author traces the history of relations between blacks and Communists between WWII and the 1930s. It was an era in which the Communist Party made racial justice and equality an important part of its agenda and openly courted blacks. The efforts helped lay the groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement that followed. The author is professor emeritus of Simmons College whose previous books include Red and Black: Communismand Afro-Americans, 1929-1935.
The Black Panther Party Reconsidered, edited by Charles E. Jones, $20.65, (List Price: $22.95), Black Classic Press, May 2005, ISBN: 9780933121973, pp. 519.
This is a collection of essays, contributed by scholars and former Black Panther Party members, who offer their observations about the rise and decline of this group of activists. Founded in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, Calif., the party (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) expanded rapidly to other cities and achieved widespread notoriety before its demise in the early 1980s.
Race and Sport: The Struggle for Equality on and off the Field, edited by Charles K. Ross, $22.50 (List Price: $25), University of Mississippi Press, January 2006, ISBN: 9781578068975, pp. 224.
A collection of six essays explores the intersection between race and sports in American life. While today we see the results of integration of athletics of all kinds, that was not always the case, and barriers fell in different sports at different times. This book details the experiences of some athletes who broke through those barriers and discusses issues surrounding race and sports including media images of the black athlete and breakthroughs for women.
Celebrate Black History Month with selections from www.DiverseBooks.net. Want to know more about DiverseBooks.net or the possibility of partnering with us? We welcome publishers of books on higher education and other topics of interest to scholars and self-published authors who want to sell books through our site. Email us at [email protected] or call 703-385-2980.