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Honoring the History of African Americans

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs
Posted February 3, 1999

Photo: Toni Morrison

Nobel Prize-winner and author Toni Morrison

While the month of February is dedicated to the achievements of African Americans, little is known about the man who created this annual celebration, Carter Woodson, born in 1875 to former slaves.

Despite many disadvantages, Woodson was determined to get an education and eventually earned a PhD from Harvard. While working as a high school teacher, he was dismayed to find no histories of black people in his students' books.

To bring the achievements of African Americans to the world's attention, Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915, now considered the start of the black history movement.

In 1929, Woodson created and promoted Negro History Week, established in February because it includes the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, a month-long recognition of African American history was established nationally.

The campus celebrates African American History Month this year with a number of events, including dance, music, film and lectures. Following are some highlights:

Stepping: A Rhythmic Art features students from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority demonstrating stepping, a dance that uses the whole body to create music. Stepping developed in West Africa and was continued in the U.S. by African slaves. Sunday, Feb. 7 and Saturday, Feb. 27, 1 and 2 p.m. at the Lawrence Hall of Science, 642-5132.

African Skies Planetarium Show uses star maps to reveal the sky as seen by various Southern African people. Saturdays and Sundays throughout Feb. and Monday, Feb. 15 at the Lawrence Hall of Science, 642-5132.

Black Family Day, sponsored by the African American Student Development Office, gives black students, faculty and staff and their families a chance to socialize and enjoy music, games and food, Sunday, Feb. 7 at 11 a.m. in the Cesar Chavez Center atrium, 642-0096.

Claressa Darden Morrow re-tells the Liberian folktale, "The Cow-Tail Switch," using song, poetry, sign language and spoken word. Saturday, Feb. 13 and 20, 2 p.m. at the Lawrence Hall of Science, 642-5132.

Beloved is a film based on Nobelist Toni Morrison's highly-acclaimed story about a mother's journey of self-discovery as she seeks to leave behind the memories of slavery and her first daughter's death. Friday, Feb. 19, 7 and 10:30 p.m., Wheeler Auditorium, $3/$4, 642-7511.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, one of the leading modern dance companies in the world, is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary season. The dance troupe captures the unique essence of black cultural expression. Feb. 19 to 20 and 24 to 26, 8 p.m., Feb. 21 and 28, 3 p.m., Feb. 27, 2 and 8 p.m. $18/$30/$42 at Zellerbach Hall, 642-9988.

Brave Dreamer: The Story of Astronaut Mae Jemison is told by professional actors and students from Oakland's Skyline High School. Jemison was the first African American woman in space. Monday, Feb. 15 at 2 and 3 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 21 at 2 p.m. at the Lawrence Hall of Science, 642-5132.

Family Affair African Rhythms invites adults and kids alike to clap to the beat of tribal drums while learning about African history, culture and rhythms. Sunday, Feb. 14, 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. at the Lawrence Hall of Science, 642-5132.

Black History, Women and Medicine features African-American women in the medical field who will answer questions about their careers and studies and facilitate activities. Monday, Feb. 15, noon at the Lawrence Hall of Science, 642-5132.

African American Heritage Dinner is an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring gourmet African dishes and American soul food specialties at International House, Thursday Feb. 25 at 4:30 p.m., 642-9260.

Gospel Extravaganza brings outstanding gospel choirs and soloists from around the Bay Area, Thursday, Feb. 25, 7:30 p.m., International House auditorium, 642-9260.

Black Empowerment Conference, now in its 9th year, focuses on issues of internal diversity in the African American community. The day-long conference, Saturday, Feb. 27, takes place in the Cesar Chavez Center and is sponsored by the African American Student Development Office, 642-0096.


February 3 - 9, 1999 (Volume 27, Number 21)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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