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Black history acknowledged this month

By Staff | Feb 11, 2011

February is traditionally the month to celebrate the history and accomplishments of African-Americans.

Black History Month represents not only the opening salvo in an ongoing fight to include African-Americans in American history but a reminder to the next generation of the history and the sacrifices that blacks have made throughout history and the struggles that still lie ahead.

Today black history is taught both in the classrooms and through society events.

James Taylor, president of Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society, knows not only the history but the struggles that lie ahead.

“When I went to school, segregation was in full force. The law of the land was separate but equal,” he said.

Taylor said the idea of a Black History Month was first celebrated by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who was known as the “Father of Black History.” Taylor was taught black history in high school.

“Back when I was in high school there was a program by Dr. Woodson called ‘the Woodson’s program.’ Black history was taught through that program,” he said.

The History of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) states that Dr. Woodson was the first person to celebrate a Black History Month. The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History was first designated Negro History Week on Feb. 12, 1926. The date was chosen to acknowledge the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States who helped abolish slavery, and Frederick Douglass, a leader in the abolitionist movement.

The black history month had a profound effect on Taylor.

“Knowing the history of my relatives struggles first to become free and then to gain our civil rights has made me deeply aware of the black movement. It has made me proud to be an African-American,” he said.

In 1986, Congress designated February as National Black (Afro-American) History Month.

“Feb. 1, 1986 marked the beginning of the 60th annual public and private salute to black history,” Taylor said.

There are several places in and around Jefferson County that will have exhibits and seminars on the black history of Jefferson County.

In February and throughout the month a special exhibit entitled, “Beyond John Brown: the Abolitionist Movement Goes to War,” will focus on the fight to end the institution of slavery after John Brown’s 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry. This special exhibit can be seen on the second floor of the John Brown Museum on Shenandoah Street in Harpers Ferry. The exhibit will highlight Osborne Perry Anderson, Martin Delany Frederick Douglass, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Harriet Tubman and the United States Colored Troops and their determination to provide freedom to all Americans.

In Charles Town a photographic exhibit “Give Praise” is at the Fire Hall Gallery and downtown visitors center. The life and times of the tri-county African-American community are presented in 18 black and white photographs taken in 1993 by artist in residence Ann Zelle. Excerpts from interviews with the individuals accompany the photo exhibit. Color landscape photographs of Jefferson County taken during that time period by Zelle will also be on exhibit. The exhibit continues through Feb. 28.

James Talbert, a member of the NAACP in Jefferson County, said that the NAACP is sponsoring two programs. The first will be held on Sunday Feb. 12 at Fisherman’s Hall in Charles Town. The second event will be held the Asbury Methodist Church in Shepherdstown on Feb. 27.

To get a list of other events covering Black History Month, contact the NAACP Chapter of Jefferson County at 304-725-9610.