It sprang from the efforts of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a noted African-American scholar who chose February since the birthdays of legendary orator Frederick Douglass and U.S. president Abraham Lincoln fell during the same week that month.
Woodson said, "We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world, void of national bias, race, hate, and religious prejudice. There should be no indulgence in undue eulogy of the Negro. The case of the Negro is well taken care of when it is shown how he has far influenced the development of civilization."
There are also dates in February that lend significance, such as creation of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) on Feb. 12, 1909, and the assassination of civil rights leader Malcolm X on Feb. 21, 1965.
This year, a number of events taking place throughout Jersey City that will serve as reminders to the citizenry who may be unaware of what this month means to at least 12 percent of the United States population.City Hall
On Feb. 15, there will be a Black History Month celebration in the City Council chambers from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. The featured speaker for the evening will be Dr. Antoinette Ellis-Williams, director of the Africana Studies Program at New Jersey City University.
Also, there will be performances by local dance troupe the Chilltown Steppers; opera singer Chuntay Rose, the praise dancer group Leap for Joy, and violinist Mohammed Bilal.
City Hall will also be the scene of an exhibition of African-American artwork and writing that will have its grand opening this Tuesday. Fourteen artists will see their creations on display, including local painters Michelle Williams, Arlene Wallace and local poet Derrick Slack.
And then there's the Martin Luther King Oratory Competition, where Jersey City school students from grades three through eight recite one of the late civil rights leader's writings or speeches within a 10-minute timeframe. Two students from each grade are chosen to compete in the finals. The competition will have its first round on Feb. 17 through 18 in the City Council chambers, followed by the finals on the 25th. The first place winner receives a $500 savings bond; second place winner receives a $250 savings bond; third place winner receives $100 savings bond, and runners-up get a book of King's writings. JC Public Library
A Black History Month Film Festival will be held during February at the Greenville Branch (1841 Kennedy Blvd.) There will be screenings of Sounder (1972), a film about an African-American sharecropping family during the Depression, on Feb. 12 at 1 p.m.; Color of Friendship (2000) about a white South African exchange student and her African-American host family, on Feb. 18 at 3:30 p.m., and Ruby Bridges (1998), based on a true story of a young girl who helped integrate a public elementary school in New Orleans, on Feb. 26 at 1 p.m.
Also taking place at the Greenville Branch will be a Black History Month Collage/Quilt Craft, Feb. 11 at 3:30 p.m. The Lafayette Branch, 307 Pacific Ave. will be the location for a roundtable discussion on the Origin of Black History Month with guest speaker Leonard Joseph, a Jersey City resident, on Feb. 18 from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m.
The Community Awareness Series based in the Miller Branch will present a jazz concert with an emphasis on the history of jazz and the African-American experience on Feb. 23 at Public School 5, 182 Merseles St. Other events
New Jersey City University (NJCU) will hold a series of events in honor of Black History Month including "A Search for Identity: James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston and Archibald Motley Jr.," Feb. 7 in the Michael Gilligan Student Union, Room 304. Kevin Powell, journalist and activist, will speak at Hepburn Hall, Room 202 on Feb. 14 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and the closing ceremony for NJCU's celebration of Black History Month on Feb. 24 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. that will feature a performance by the Bambara Drum and Dance Ensemble.
Hudson County Community College will present two events on their campus at 25 Journal Square in the College's Student Lounge.
On Feb. 9 and 10, there will be a screening of Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (2004), a documentary by noted documentary filmmaker Ken Burns on Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion. Part I will be on Feb. 9 and Part II on Feb. 10, both screenings from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
On Feb. 23, a lecture titled "It's The Little Things" featuring guest speaker Lena Williams, author of the book with the same name as the lecture. The lecture will start at 6:30 p.m. All the events listed are free and open to the public. For more information on the City Hall events, contact the Cultural Affairs Office at (201) 547-4321. For information on events in the Jersey City Public Library system, call (201) 547-4579. For more information on the NJCU events, contact the Public Information Office at (201) 200-3426. For information on the HCCC events, contact Deseree Graham McFarlane at (201) 714-7143. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.