by Ian Macel ’24 (he/him), Staff Writer
Brief History of Black History Month
In February 1926, Historian Carter G. Woodson sponsored the first “Negro History Week.” His goal was to acknowledge not just the achievements of a few well known African Americans, but of the entire race.
For the next 40 years, “Negro History Week,” sponsered by Woodson’s Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), was celebrated in towns all over the United States.
In the 1960s, activist Fredrick H. Hammaurabi and African American college students across the nation led the charge to replace just a week of Black history with an entire Black History Month. In 1976, President Gerald Ford decreed Black History Month a national observance.
Quick History of Black History Month at Davidson:
At Davidson, the first formal observance of Black history was April 1976, when the Black Student Coalition (BSC) invited the faculty to participate in “Black Week.”
In 1980, the BSC organized activities for Black History Month and invited the campus to participate through a letter in The Davidsonian. Despite this invitation to celebrate Black History Month, there was little interest among the greater student body to participate.
This lack of interest in the BSC’s activities caused events coordinator John Eley ‘83 to write a 1981 Davidsonian article titled “Black Student Coalition Deserves Attention.” Eley asked that more of campus participate in the future activities after “a dismally low attendance of events by the Davidson student body” the previous year.
In the late 80s, Eley’s request was finally granted when the BSC and the Dean of Students Office partnered to create the Martin Luther King Jr. Black History Month Cultural Arts Series. As a part of this series, the BSC brought speakers, including Dr. C. Eric Lincoln and Dr. Henry Louis Gates, art and dance exhibitions, cooking workshops, and films to campus.
This year, the BSC has lots in store for Black History Month, including events still to come in these last few weeks of February.
Events this February
To kick off Black History Month, the BSC Instagram account invited students all over campus to join BSC members in wearing black, red, green or yellow — the colors of Black History Month.
Other events in the first week included self care goodie bags, Zoom yoga, and “Support a Black Business Friday.”
On February 11th, the BSC and Sigma Psi chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority partnered to host Black Jeopardy over Zoom. This is usually an in-person event that gets highly competitive and energetic, so BSC treasurer Caro Djakuduel ‘23 was happy to see “people had the same energy” over Zoom.
On February 13th, the BSC celebrated “Spread The Love Weekend.” Black History Month Events Chair Eboni Thomas ‘23 said that “anyone who signed up got a cute goodie bag with gifts from the BSC and our Black Alumni network.”
Another way the BSC is spreading the love is through Djakuduel’s “Brown Skin Girl” project. The video will be a recreation of Beyoncé’s music video of the same name, and Djakuduel is hoping to premier the video at ROOTS (Recognizing Our Overlooked Talented Selves), a showcase series the BSC puts on to cap off Black History Month every year.
“I want to highlight Black Femmes on campus, because oftentimes I feel like we’re left out of the conversation or not seen, and this video will help us feel appreciated,” Djakuduel said.
For ROOTS this February, Thomas and her committee members are working to present both a showcase video and in-person aspect. Due to the pandemic, Thomas said the plans for the showcase are still being adjusted.
The pandemic has caused many of the Black History Month events to move online. Combined with a fairly inactive semester last fall, BSC President Jared Lindo ‘21 said this disruption has caused the BSC to have lower attendance expectations for Black History Month events than normal.
Lindo said, “We appreciate all those who do show up and are looking for the BSC’s presence, but if you can’t sign on to a Zoom call because you’ve gone through so many in a day, that’s fine too.”
The events are open to all students, and Thomas encouraged everyone on campus to “join in helping us celebrate our historic month.” She continued, “I think a lot of students either don’t want to impose on or have a misrepresentation of Black History Month events. We are inclusive of all students.”
One event that’s still in-person is Food Truck Friday. The Nacho Average Food Truck came on February 12th, and Walking Crab Seafood is coming up this Friday, the 19th, so don’t miss it! The truck will be parked across the street from the BSC House on Patterson Court starting at 12 pm.
Thomas said other events still to come this Black History Month include ROOTS, a candlelight vigil for victims of gun violence, a mental health chat with school counselors and alumni, and professionalism events catered towards navigating and upgrading one’s LinkedIn profile. Keep an eye on the BSC Instagram page, as well as Wildcat Sync. All students are welcome and encouraged to attend.
The BSC Discusses The Next 50 Years
As part of their Black History Month programming, the BSC hosted “The Next 50 Years Panel” on February 15th. The panelists, including Dr. Hilary Green, Professor Issac Bailey ‘95, and Andre Kennebrew ‘82, reflected on the past 50 years since the BSC was chartered and on the future of social justice on and off campus.
The panelists stressed that the BSC began their work four years prior to being chartered, and that the BSC has actually been active for 54 years.
On February 2nd, 2021, the Davidson Archives Twitter page tweeted that the Black Student Coalition was celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Three days later, they issued a clarification, acknowledging that the BSC actually began its work in 1967, before the organization was officially chartered.
The 2020 Davidson College Commision on Race and Slavery Time Line recognizes that the BSC was formed in 1967.
President Lindo stated of the anniversary, “the BSC has grown a lot in the past 54 years and that’s because what other choice is there? The work never stops.”