Black History Month 2015
The theme for this year's Black History month is
A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture
as stated by the founders of Black History Month, the ASALH (Association for the Study of African American Life and History).
The Revolutionary American Thomas Paine held that "civil rights are those which appertain to man in right of his being a member of society." From the beginning of our Republic, free people of African descent have seen themselves as citizens, members of society, and therefore due equal rights. From the nation's origins, Americans believed that religion should not be a basis for abridging a citizen's rights, but very few believed color should be treated similarly. And gender and sexual orientation were not even open for discussion. The resulting struggles over civil rights have remade our nation for more than two centuries.
The history of civil rights in the United States is largely the story of free people of color and then African Americans to define and enumerate what rights pertain to citizens in civil society. It has been the history of enlisting political parties to recognize the need for our governments, state and federal, to codify and protect those rights. Through the years, people of African descent have formed organizations and movements to promote equal rights. The Colored Convention Movement, the Afro-American League, the Niagara Movement, the National Council of Negro Women, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference carried the banner of equality when allies were few. In the modern era, integrated organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Urban League, and the Congress of Racial Equality fought for and protected equal rights. The names of America's greatest advocates of social justice—Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Fanny Lou Hamer - are associated with the struggle for civil rights.
Within this struggle for civil rights, many of the important leaders have been men and women whose rights as women and as members of the gay and lesbian community were subordinated to the general cause. Pauli Murray, Bayard Rustin, James Baldwin, and many others litigated, organized, and wrote on behalf of civil rights, believing fully in the path towards equal rights for all. Their struggles accentuate the universality of the movement for equality in America, and form a central part of the 2014 National African American History theme.
From: Association for the Study of African American Life and History at www.asalh.org
Associate University Librarian