DISCOVER THE Y’S CONNECTION TO BLACK HISTORY MONTH

Carter Woodson

 

Black History Month has roots associated with the YMCA 

Carter G. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History,” wanted the study of past Black life to have a significant impact. He once stated, “We are going back to that beautiful history and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements.”  

In 1915, Woodson, a University of Chicago alumnus, arrived in Chicago to attend a national celebration of the 50th anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the state of Illinois. Inspired by this three-week celebration of the accomplishments of Black people in the U.S., Dr. Woodson met with a small group at the historic Wabash Avenue YMCA in Chicago and founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now called the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). 

The group who helped form the ASNLH would spend their nights at the Wabash Avenue Y, which in those days served as an important Black social hub and space for conversations about Black history, race relations, and politics. This began the foundation that would create Negro History and Literature Week, renamed Negro Achievement Week, later Negro History Week, and eventually Black History Month. 

According to the ASNLH website, under Woodson’s pioneering leadership, the Association created research and publication outlets for Black scholars with the establishment of the Journal of Negro History (1916) and the Negro History Bulletin (1937), which garners a popular public appeal.  

Today, Black History Month is celebrated in the month of February and draws support throughout the country as people of all backgrounds discuss and celebrate the Black experience.  

It is important to note that historically, the focus of Black History Month has been on Black achievements since enslavement in the US; however, Woodson’s intent was to explore modern Black history as a starting point to deeper exploration beyond the arrival of enslaved Africans in the Americas. 

The Greater Peoria Family YMCA celebrates and honors Black history throughout the month of February and every day. 

Sources:  YMCA of the USA; Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) 

Photo: Kautz Family YMCA Archives 

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