Black History Month is celebrated in the U.S. throughout the month of February.
American historian Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week to commemorate the contributions that people of African descent have made to our nation.
The first celebration occurred on Feb. 12, 1926. For many years, the second week of February was set aside for the celebration to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist and editor Frederick Douglass.
In 1976, as part of the nation’s bicentennial, the week was expanded into Black History Month. Each year, U.S. presidents declare February National African-American History Month.
The Monmouth County Library, in conjunction with Chhange, the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education at Brookdale Community College, presents "Growing Up Black in the Segregated South" on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 10 a.m.
Ray Dothard, a retired Air Force veteran and war hero, will discuss his own life and reminiscences of his life and the community during this time. Dothard graduated from Tuskegee Air Force ROTC, became a commercial airline pilot and was the personal pilot to President Mandela and his wife during their 1990s trip across America. He is active in Center Players, Freehold's Resident Theatre Company, recently performing in productions of Driving Miss Daisy and I'm Not Rappaport.
This program is part of The Big Read, sponsored by Chhange and endowed by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Big Read title is A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines which takes place in the segregated South and is the tale of a man who is incarcerated and executed for a crime that he did not commit.
Dothard's talk will help readers of the book and our community understand the challenges that were faced by African Americans during the time in which A Lesson Before Dying took place.
Here are some famous Black History Month trailblazers from Biography.com:
- Nathaniel Alexander was the first to patent the folding chair. His invention was designed to be used in schools, churches and at large social gatherings.
- Henry Blair, the second African-American to receive a patent, invented a corn seed planter in 1834 and a cotton planter in 1836. Blair could not read or write and signed his patent with an X.
- Joseph Winters invented a fire escape ladder in 1878.
- Sarah E. Goode invented a bed that folded up into a cabinet in 1885. Contrary to popular belief, she was not the first African-American woman to receive a patent, but the second.
- George Carruthers invented the far ultraviolet electrographic camera, used in the 1972 Apollo 16 mission.