Black History Month as we know it today has been celebrated since 1976. It was in this year that it was first declared a month-long celebration. The origins of Black History Month stem from “Negro History Week,” which was an observance set into motion by Carter G. Woodson in the year 1926. Woodson was a renowned African American scholar, educator, publisher, and historian. In creating Negro History Week, Woodson had aimed for a week to be dedicated to different people and events that have made up the history of the African diaspora.
This observance generated great success and appreciation, leading to annual themes and individual celebrations that became a tradition. When it was declared this observance should be a month-long event, the month of February was chosen so as to celebrate African American history and culture specifically during a time that would coincide with the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
Black History Month originated in the United States but is now observed all over the world, in countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands. The individuals celebrated during this time include famous African American change makers, trendsetters, activists, academics, and entertainers. Every year many of the same events take place that has been set into stone as a part of a tradition, but new themes and ideas for celebrating also come the surface with each new February. Individuals and groups are recognized through artwork, music, discussion, social media, and so much more every more.
Just last year, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) marked its 110th anniversary on February 12. It is organizations such as these that exist to promote the role of African American’s in today’s society in a number of different ways. The NAACP was formed particularly to establish a group of leaders who would exist as a permanent civil rights organization. Universities all over the United States also have their own divisions of the NAACP, including Frostburg State.
At FSU, there were a number of different events take place honoring Black History Month. Firstly, in collaboration with Black Student Association and United Campus Ministries, the Center for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion hosted two showings of “Harriet”, the film that documents the life of the heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Additionally, BSA teamed up with Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc. and the National Council of Negro Women to celebrate black excellence as a community for a group picture commemorating the end of Black History Month at FSU. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., as well as NCNW, also hosted separate events during February which pertained to African American culture jeopardy and telling the stories of four separate African American women who made an impact on society. Students undoubtedly celebrated this event across campus in their own way as well.
When asked what Black History Month means to her, student Jasmine Smiley said, “To me, Black History Month means showcasing my Blackness unapologetically and paying homage to those who have set the foundation and broken down barriers to forge equal opportunities for black and brown people.”.
Celebrating the history surrounding the African American community does not merely start or end with this one month in the year. This sentiment has recently been made especially clear on campus at Frostburg State given the approval of the Brownsville monument that will be placed in the Upper Quad. Brownsville was a lively African American neighborhood, which occupied much of the Frostburg area near what we now know as the Upper Quad, prior to the construction of FSU. Tyler Bauer, a senior at FSU and an intern in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, supplied The Bottom Line with an abundance of information pertaining to the Brownsville Monument that is soon to come to fruition.
Bauer explained, “I hope that this monument, as well as the multicultural center, become hubs for students on campus and become symbols of pride for our student body as well. Brownsville was a community started by Tamer Brown, a formerly enslaved Black woman, in 1866. This community started from nothing lasted until the early ’60s, this story shouldn’t always be thought of as one of tragedy but one where we can look to as a student body as an inspiration.”
Bauer also took the time to express the hard work of the Brownsville Monument Committee, of which he was a member, and how the approval of this monument should act as a triumph for the University as a whole. He added that although the date of construction for the monument is unknown, it will ideally be around the end of April.
“The monument itself will be a 15-ton boulder set up next to the steps coming down from Frost Hall into the upper quad unless that has been changed. On that boulder will be a bronze medallion, 3 feet in diameter, with an artist’s rendition of what a “Brownsville Logo” would look like. There will also be a bronze plaque on it as well discussing Brownsville and including the names of the families who OWNED property in Brownsville.”
A number of individuals played a very vital role in bringing this project to life. Being that many times they were met with resistance, it is a wonderful thing that Brownsville will now begin to be properly commemorated. Ngozi Alia, NAACP President, has even made it possible for students to obtain Brownsville State University apparel. Bauer also added that he and his team were permitted to utilize Mrs. Robin Wynder’s NCBI workshops in order “to educate all incoming first-year students about Brownsville.”. However, it lies in the hands of the University as well as those who comprise it to ensure that the Brownsville memory lives on, its story is continually told, and no one person forgets this community’s significance. *
Both Black History Month as a whole and the implementation of the Brownsville Monument right here in Frostburg mean a great deal in terms of rightfully recognizing both African American history and advancement over time. While the Brownsville plaque will recognize the names of the families whose property was purchased in order to build FSU, it is immensely necessary that we continually honor the history of Brownsville, as well as that of the African American community.
Thanks to celebratory times of the year like Black History Month, we are able to pay special attention to the sacrifices that individuals have made throughout history and thus pay homage to the increasingly important symbolic roles that these individuals have come to play as a result of these sacrifices. Let us not forget the necessity in celebrating these life-altering achievements on a day to day basis, rather than just solely the month of February.
*When contacted by News Writer Emma Duncan for purposes of this article, Bauer provided additional information that is not included in this article. If any student is interested in reading Bauer’s responses to all questions, they may contact @firstname.lastname@example.org in order to be forwarded this information.