Gail Bindley-Taylor on Black History Month

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Black History Month, observed annually in February, provides an opportunity to discuss and
reflect on the role that generations of African Americans, who struggled through many
adversities to achieve full citizenship in American society, have played in shaping the United
States. Through the efforts of Carter G. Woodson, the son of formally enslaved Americans, the
event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of
both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Woodson, who after putting himself putting
himself through high school at age 20 went on to become the second African American to earn
a PhD from Harvard University (after W.E.B. DuBois), founded the Association for the Study of
Negro Life and History, which still exists today, to help represent a fuller picture of America’s
history and make that history accessible to all people. He established a publishing company to
print and distribute works by African Americans and other minorities—people whose ideas
might not have otherwise received a wider audience. His work shaped not only how African
Americans understood their own history, but also how whites understood the contributions of
minorities in America.
The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, by President Gerald R. Ford who urged
Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of
black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” That year, fifty years after
the first celebration, the association held the first Black History Month. Black History Month is
celebrated not only in the United States but in Canada, (also in February) the United Kingdom,
Ireland and The Netherlands (in the month of October) and in Belgium and Germany.
During the month of February, we at St. Paul’s will be highlighting African Americans and other
minorities of colour who have contributed to life in the Episcopal Church and have played a role
in improving our lives in the United States through their personal impact. Look each week in our
Wednesday Newsletter for a new story, or a link to a video or article, or a testimonial from one
of our members who is part of our sacred ground circles which help us to learn more about our
past and lead the way to our becoming beloved community. Our baptismal covenant calls us
“to strive for justice and peace among all people respecting the dignity of every human being.”
With this in mind, we will also share resources from our Episcopal Church that might help us all
learn more and do more in our efforts to keep our covenant and respect the dignity of every
human being.

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