Known as the Father of Black History, Carter G. Woodson laid the foundation of Black History Month at a YMCA.
Did you know that Black History Month has roots associated with the YMCA? In 1915, Carter G. Woodson, a University of Chicago alumnus, arrived in Chicago to attend a national celebration of the 50th anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the state of Illinois.
Inspired by this three-week celebration where thousands of African-Americans had travelled from across the country to see exhibits that highlighted the progress of their people since the end of slavery, Woodson met at the Wabash Avenue YMCA in Chicago with a small group and formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). This began the foundation that would create Negro History and Literature Week, renamed Negro Achievement Week, later Negro History Week and eventually Black History Month.
Known as the “Father of Black History,” Woodson wanted the study of past black life to have significant impact stating, “We are going back to that beautiful history and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements.” It is important to note that the focus of Black History month has been on black achievements since enslavement in the US, however, Woodson’s intent was to explore modern black history as a starting point to deeper exploration beyond the arrival of enslaved Africans in the Americas.
The history of the YMCA – like the history of the United States – is a story of incremental progress toward greater inclusion and equity for all. As we celebrate Black History this month and year-round let’s remember and honor the Black leaders who helped move the Y – and America – forward on this journey, often in the face of unimaginable challenges.