Take advantage of all Black History Month has to offer

By Gus Bode

Some time this month, pause and take a moment to think about Carter G. Woodson. He was born in 1875, the son of former slaves, and he spent most of his childhood toiling in the coal mines of West Virginia. There was no reason to believe he was embarking on a distinguished academic career when he entered high school at age 20, but within two years he had graduated. He went on to obtain a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University in 1912.

Woodson decided to document the black American contribution to American history, and in 1915 founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.

In 1926, he founded Negro History week, choosing the second week of February in honor of the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Black history was still largely unrecorded, but Woodson persevered, founding the Journal of Negro History and the Negro History Bulletin. He tirelessly promoted black education and the study of black history. After his death, Negro History Week was expanded into Black History Month.


February is rich with black history:W.E.B. DuBois was born; Malcolm X was assassinated; the Fifteenth Amendment was passed, granting blacks the right to vote; Hiram R. Revels took the oath of office as the first black U.S. senator; the Woolworth lunch counter sit-in took place; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded.

Appropriately, the month of February is packed with an ambitious schedule of events in celebration of Black History Month here on campus. Bobby Seale, one of the Chicago Seven and founder of the Black Panthers, will speak on Thursday at the Carbondale Civic Center. On Saturday, you can enjoy a soul food dinner at the Eurma Hayes Center, and the classic miniseries “Roots,” based on Alex Haley’s book, will be shown in its entirety at the Law School Auditorium.

Kevin Cokley will speak at 7 p.m. Feb. 14 in the Mississippi Room at the Student Center about black cultural criticism and the controversial remarks of Bill Cosby.

There is much work to be done, and much is still missing from the historical record; nevertheless, great strides have been made in acknowledging the enormous contributions made by blacks in building, shaping, improving and fighting for this country.

Woodson would not be satisfied. Not yet. But he would be proud.