Every February, public libraries “celebrate” Black History Month, yet does it inspire positive outcomes in our communities year round? On February 2, at 1:30 p.m., SCPL has a chance to do just that by welcoming UK professor Reinette Jones, founder of the Notable Kentucky African Americans database. This award-winning research tool documents achievements and milestones that ultimately challenge us all to be our best.
Professor Jones’ own accomplishments honor the legacy of Carter G. Woodson, an African American who promoted “Negro Achievement Week” in 1924. Woodson dedicated his life and career to promoting these achievements, and it evolved from a single week to the modern-day Black History month.
In 1915, twelve thousand African Americans visited Chicago that summer for an exhibit highlighting racial and social progress since the Civil War. A University of Chicago alumnus, Woodson traveled from Washington D.C. to participate. Moved and inspired by the event, he organized a national movement. He founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which focused on outreach and materials teaching black history in schools, colleges, churches and communities. In 1924, the Association created Negro History and Literature Week, which they renamed Negro Achievement Week. A week in February was selected because it is the month Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born.
Woodson opposed the commercialization or “trivialization” of African American history in textbooks and materials sold for purchase, and published the Negro History Bulletin beginning in 1937 and a school textbook. In the 1960s, volunteers teaching in the Freedom Schools during the Civil Rights movement upheld those standards. During that decade, Frederick H. Hammaurabi, founder of the House of Knowledge, an educational and cultural center, promoted the permanent shift from a single achievement week to Black History Month.
In February, SCPL welcomes University of Kentucky librarian and professor Reinette Jones. Author of Library Service to African Americans in Kentucky, at UK libraries, Jones noticed “…we [had] been unable to fulfill requests for a current biographical reference on African American Kentuckians.” She created the NKAA database, “…a continuously updated online reference source that is tailored to the profiles of African Americans in and from Kentucky.”
Describing her February 2 program, Jones explains “There are always a few unknowns in history. Some can be found in the Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (NKAA).” She will share the stories of some lesser-known persons from Scott County. They include Sgt. Harrison Bradford, who led the San Pedro Springs Mutiny in Texas in 1867, in the fight for fair treatment for his fellow African American soldiers. Lillian Nareen White was the first African American to play basketball at UK, and there are many more. Their stories inspire us to achieve our best, and to do good in our communities throughout the year.
Sources: NKAA database; BlackPast.org-blackpast.org/perspective/history-black-history-month