Celebrate and Commemorate: Black History Month

February is month that is set aside to celebrate Black History. It began as Negro History and Literature Week in 1920. In 1976, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History changed Negro History Week into a month-long celebration.

We went to USU-CEU to ask some of the African American students how they feel about the celebration of Black History Month, and to find out who some of their African heroes are.

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Benoni Sowah, native of Ghana, said “Americans cannot write their history without talking about the African American.”

Some of his heroes are Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. “They are great because they stood up for the rights of many”, he said. “All it takes is one person to stand up for the rights and freedoms of others.”

Sowah agreed that these people where great, but stated, “ If there was no freedom, no rights, they wouldn’t have been able to accomplish some of those things, if any of them.”

Lady Eagle basketball player Jasmine Scott said the most influential African American to her was Madame C. J. Walker. “ She revolutionized the hair industry, showing African American women how beautiful they could be and giving them more confidence,” she said.

Scott’s twin sister, Amber, said Rosa Parks made the biggest contribution to African American history. “ It was rare to see a women stand up for the rights of others, and she did what not many people had the guts to do,” she explained.

Both agreed that the decade of 1980s was the most crucial for the African American culture. “The crack epidemic was starting out, and young black males were idolizing pimps. I would love you to go back in time and let people know there are other ways to make money, other than selling drugs,” said Jasmine Scott.

“Not all Black people are ghetto and ignorant, some of us are educated. I am sick of people thinking that to be black means to be uneducated,” said Amber.

USU-CEU provides a diverse atmosphere for its African American students. However, for some students, colleges such as Hampton University, in Hampton Virginia, appeal because they boast a higher percentage of African American Students.

The top college for black students is Spelman College, in Atlanta, Ga. Total student population in 2008 was 2,191, 99.4% of their students being black.

Second is Howard University, in Washington, D.C. Total student population in 2008 was 6,807, 65.9% of their students being black.

Third is Morehouse College, in Atlanta Ga. Total student population in 2003 was 2,729, 95.2% of their students being black.

African Americans have made a number of contributions to American way of life. Some African American firsts include: The first U.S. President, Barack Obama- 2008; the first U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall- 1967-1991; the first Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ralph J. Bunche- 1950; the first Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Sgt. William H. Cerney- Civil War; heart surgery pioneer, Daniel Hale Williams- 1893; the first Ph.D., Edward A. Bouchet- 1876; Pulitzer Prize winner, Gwendolyn Brooks- 1950; female Grammy Award winner, Ella Fitzgerald- 1958; first Oscar winners for Best Actor/Actress, Sidney Poitier- 1963, Halle Berry- 2001; comedian and star of a network television show, Bill Cosby- 1965; golf champion, Tiger Woods- 1997; and the first millionaire Madame C. J. Walker.

We invite members of the community to take some time and discover some of the achievements and contributions that African Americans have made to our history. Black History Month runs through February.

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