Month: February 2016

February is here!

February ‘ 16 Newsletter

UNDERWRITTEN HISTORY

In 1915, historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded a group which would eventually become the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. This group was dedicated to researching and promoting the achievements of black people that largely went ignored at the time. Woodson and his peers created a “National Negro History Week” in 1926. The week fell on the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Fredrick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. Events, lectures, and local celebrations were held across the country to celebrate the history of black people. This week would eventually grow into the Black History Month we know today, officially changing 1976 under the President Gerald Ford.

NOTEABLE BLACK HISTORICAL FIGURES YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE HEARD OF

Any one of these might make a good biography, students!

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W.E.B DUBOIS

The first ever black man to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard, W.E.B. DuBois wasn’t just one of the smartest black men of his time but one of the greatest intellectuals of the early twentieth century. DuBois wrote several monumental books and essays that criticized the racism of the day. His writing took on subjects like the Jim Crow Laws, lynching, and political discrimination, and his books, The Souls of Black Folks and Black Reconstruction in America, remain relevant to this day. DuBois was also a key contributor to the founding of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

 

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JANE BOLIN

While you may have heard the name Thurgood Marshall, the first black man to ever serve on the Supreme Court, you likely aren’t as familiar with Jane Bolin. In 1932, Bolin became the first black woman to serve as a judge in the United States. Prior to that, she was blazing trails every which way. She was also the first black woman to earn a law degree from Yale and the first to pass the New York State bar exam. As judge, Bolin would end segregation in child placement facilities and help put a stop to racial bias in the assignment of probation officers. In addition to her work in government, Bolin was also instrumental in the creation of a racially integrated treatment facility for delinquent boys.

 

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HENRY LOUIS GATES JR.

Following in the footsteps of DuBois, Henry Louis Gates Jr. became a prominent historian and public intellectual in the 1980s. Like DuBois, Gates tackled America’s racial divide without trepidation. His most prominent work, The Signifying Monkey, extended the practice of literary criticism to African-American books, particularly the concept of “signifying” in which scholars examine the multiple meanings a word might have in a given text. Gates received national attention in 2009 when he was arrested for trying to get into his Cambridge home after a neighbor reported a possible break-in. The incident prompted President Obama to invite the writer to the White House so that two of them could share a drink together.

 

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ELLA BAKER

Working mostly behind the scenes, Ella Baker was a social activist and a key part of the black Civil Rights movement for five decades. She worked closely with many of the movement’s more recognizable names such as Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, and W.E.B. DuBois. She even mentored Rosa Park who famously refused to give up her seat on December 1st, 1955. Beginning in the 1930s, Baker worked diligently for the rights of black people up until her death in 1986. She was comfortable with her role toiling in the background, believing that charismatic leaders were only a small facet in the advancement of her people. In an interview, she said, “You didn’t see me on television… The kind of role that I tried to play was to pick up pieces or put together pieces out of which I hoped organization might come. My theory is, strong people don’t need strong leaders.”

VALENTINE’S DAY
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February, in addition to being Black History Month, also houses Valentine’s Day on February 14th. This year the holiday falls on a Sunday.

VALENTINUS THE MARTYR
Before it became a holiday on which students exchanged colorful cards and couples exchanged chocolates and flowers, Valentine’s Day was a liturgical celebration for Christian saints named Valentinus who had been martyred. One such story tells of Saint Valentine of Rome who, in one telling, was imprisoned for performing Christian ceremonies for Roman soldiers. While imprisoned, Valentine purportedly healed the daughter of his jailer. One account claims that he wrote her a letter signed, “Your Valentine,” prior to his execution.

A DAY FOR LOVE
Valentine’s Day did not become associated with romance until the High Middle Ages. George Chaucer, of Canterbury Tales fame, and his contemporaries were the first to associate the day with love. In fact, the first written link between Valentine’s Day and romantic love came when Chaucer wrote the poem “Parlement of Foules.” The poem contains the lines, “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.” Chaucer wrote the poem to honor the first anniversary of King Richard the II and Anne of Bohemia. Paper Valentine’s Day cards did not become an established tradition until 1797 thanks to a British publication titled, The Young Man’s Valentine Writer. The practice gained traction in the 19th century and were eventually being mass-produced in England as well as the US after 1847.

 

UPCOMING EVENTS
Lego Land, February 2nd
Open House, 9am-10:30am, February 5th
No school, February 15th