International Civil Rights Center and Museum
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Fighting for Equality
Colleges are traditionally a hotbed of social activism, as they were during the civil rights movement. In 1960, students in the south began to stage sit-ins to protest Jim Crow laws that prohibited interracial interaction in public areas like restaurants, schools, buses - and lunch counters. Lunch counters were a social hot spot for America's youth, and it was at a whites-only Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina where four black students from North Carolina AT&T College committed the radical act of sitting down. That happened on February 1, 1960 - by the end of February, sit-downs had happened in 31 cities, and by the end of March that number grew to 71. A new International Civil Rights Center and Museum opens on February 1, 2010 in that Woolworth's building, heralding the essential role that the student-led sit-downs played in revitalizing the American civil rights movement.
Today, schools across the country keep the spirit of social justice and racial equality alive by celebrating African American culture and history during Black History Month. Events range from cultural and historical lectures to celebrations with music, food and a historical theme. Artists, writers, dancers and other performers also give presentations on black history at many campuses. Because higher ed institutions play an important role in educating the community, these events are usually open to the public and admission is free.
Students! Tweet @educationportal and tell us what your school's doing for Black History Month.
Carter G. Woodson
Black History Month originated in 1926 after African American historian Carter Godwin Woodson lobbied to have the second week in February declared 'Negro History Week.' Woodson chose February to honor the achievements of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln , both of whom were born in this month. The response from the community was overwhelming, and organizations across the country quickly united in celebrating and teaching African American history and culture during 'Negro History Week.'
Throughout his life, Woodson worked to educate people on the accomplishments of black Americans and their oft-overlooked contributions to society. He established the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) in 1915, an organization that, among other things, has preserved the legacy of 'Negro History Week.' The week -long celebration turned into a month in the 1960s when activist Fredrick H. Hammaurabi began to celebrate 'Negro History Month' at his House of Knowledge. The month-long focus gained in popularity and in 1976 the ASALH used their influence to make it official - all across the country people celebrate Black History Month each February.
Each year the ASALH declares a theme to help organizers and educators focus their celebrations. This year the theme is 'The History of Black Economic Empowerment,' in celebration of the National Urban League's centennial. This organization was created 100 years ago to help African Americans gain financial independence in the Jim Crow economy. With this theme, the ASALH honors the struggle of African Americans who have fought against a long history of institutionalized racism and economic exclusion to become skilled workers, professionals, business owners and essential members of the American economy. The theme is especially relevant right now as the whole country fights to recover from economic depression.