BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La.-- --
Barksdale has celebrated Black History Month since the early 1970s, but the study and celebration of Black Americans’ rich cultural heritage, triumphs and adversities is nearly a century old.
Black History Month originated from a concept developed by Harvard-trained historian, Carter G. Woodson, and minister Jesse E. Moorland.
The two developed the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in 1915. The association was dedicated to researching, documenting and promoting the achievements of African Americans.
In 1926 the ASALH sponsored the first ‘Negro History Week’ by preparing and disseminating school curriculum to highlight history and heritage. They also coordinated celebratory banquets, lectures, beauty pageants and parades.
The week-long celebration was scheduled during the second week of February to honor and coincide with Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’s birthdays.
While many Black communities embraced the observance, larger populations didn’t recognize or celebrate the observance until the civil rights movement in the late 1960s.
In 1976 President Gerald Ford issued a statement of the importance of Black History Month to all Americans.
“In celebrating Black History Month, we can take satisfaction from this recent progress in the realization of the ideals envisioned by our Founding Fathers,” said Ford. “But, even more than this, we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
While the importance of the month was still developing throughout the country, Barksdale’s base library hosted a celebration art show in 1972. The celebration featured artwork from Southern University junior college students.
In February 1973, the base library celebrated the lives and accomplishments of Black Americans by exhibiting an arts and crafts display and showing heritage films. The base paper, The Barksdale Observer, featured articles on distinguished African American soldiers throughout the month.
In both 1974 and 1975, Barksdale’s observances were reduced to a week before returning to a month-long celebration in 1976 upon President Ford’s proclamation.
Over the years, Barksdale has celebrated Black History Month with themes suggested by the ASALH.
Barksdale’s events have included everything from historical lectures, newspaper articles and discussions on education and housing, to dances, banquets, films, arts and crafts and even health care screenings.
Barksdale’s Black History Month events were originally coordinated by Equal Opportunity but are now coordinated by the Barksdale African American Heritage Committee.
This year Barksdale’s Black History Month theme is Unity in the Community.