Black History Month has been recognized annually since 1926, first as "Negro History Week" and later as "Black History Month." The intent is to celebrate the rich history of Africans, not only from the mother continent but throughout the world.
The month sprang from the efforts of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a noted African-American scholar who chose February because the birthdays of legendary orator Frederick Douglass and U.S. president Abraham Lincoln fell during the same week that month.
Woodson, at an event in 1926 for the formation of Negro History Week, 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.Jersey City Free Public Library
Various branches of the Jersey City Free Public Library system will hold Black History Month events. Highlights include:
Sandra Bolden Cunningham, widow of late Jersey City mayor Glenn D. Cunningham, will address four regional branches throughout the month on the topic: What Black History Month Means to Me.
Cunningham will speak at the Miller Branch, 489 Bergen Ave., on Feb. 9; Glenn D. Cunningham Branch, 271-285 Martin Luther King Drive, on Feb. 14; Greenville Branch, 1841 Kennedy Blvd. on Feb. 21 and Heights Branch, 14 Zabriskie Ave., on Feb. 28. The addresses on various dates will start at 4 p.m.
Meanwhile, the late mayor will be remembered when the Marion Branch (1017 West Side Ave.) presents his video documentary, "Hidden Footprints," about the first African Americans in Jersey City through the period of the Underground Railroad. The screening will be on February 7 at 11 a.m.
The Miller Branch (489 Bergen Ave.) throughout the month will present Black History Makers, a series of films produced by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, featuring well-known celebrities in their respective fields of music, movies and the public arena. Those films will be shown on February 9, 17 and 24 at 3:30 p.m.
The Five Corners Branch (678 Newark Ave.) will host a black history trivia contest on Feb. 27 at 4 p.m. Prizes will be awarded to winners in several age categories. City Hall
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. 16 and 17 in the City Council chambers, followed by the finals on the 23rd.
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. Other venues
New Jersey City University (NJCU), 2039 Kennedy Blvd., will hold a series of events in honor of Black History Month including "Dancing in Black," an exhibit of African-American dance photography and drawings by Mansa K. Mussa, Richard Barclift, and Bruce Harman with the opening reception on Feb. 6, 4:30 - 7 p.m., Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery, Hepburn Hall, Room 323.
On Feb. 22, NJCU alumna Dr. Margaret Hayes ('70) and Dr. Linda Epps, president and CEO of the New Jersey Historical Society, will speak on "African Americans in New Jersey: A History of Success." The lecture will be from 12 to 2 p.m. in Hepburn Hall, Room 202.
Hudson County Community College, 25 Journal Square, will also host some events for Black History Month.
On Feb. 6, the college's Student Activities Office will show film screenings on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks starting at 1 p.m.
On Feb. 22, "Claim the Dream," a one-woman drama performed by actress Diane Dixon, will start at 6:30 p.m. Dixon will portray several woman characters through the history of African-Americans in the U.S. from slavery to Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus in 1955.
St. Peter's College, 2641 Kennedy Blvd., will also be holding a few events in conjunction with Black History Month.
The highlights will include a memorial service for Coretta Scott King, widow of legendary civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., tentatively scheduled for Feb. 9. Dr. King received an honorary degree from St. Peter's in 1965, months after he was awarded the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.
On Feb. 13 at noon, Garry Prime (class of 1965) will speak on his experiences in the 1960s as a Peace Corps volunteer in the African nation of Malawi as part of the Catholic and Jesuit Identity Lecture Series. Prime will also discuss his relationship with the people of Malawi over nearly 40 years.
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) (201) 360-4064. For information on St. Peter's College, contact Stephen Hudik at (201) 915-9000. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org