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Black History Month

Black History Month, or as it is otherwise known, African American History Month, is not a new construct. While the official recognition in our country came from President Ford as a part of the bicentennial in 1976, the origin of the idea dates back to 1926, when Dr. Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) announced that the second week of February would be Negro History Week. The chosen date coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, both revered by the Black communities. But, Carter wanted to do more than glorify two men, he wanted to study and celebrate a race. 

Black United students at Kent State University proposed Black History Month in 1969, with the first official celebration taking place a year later in February of 1970. All of this focus on Black History designated into certain time frames was not without controversy. While there was a large outpouring of support across the nation, there were those who wondered why education regarding Black History needed to be confined – why not encompass the entire year? In addition, there was a concern that stories would be condensed, made into sound bites, and not fully explored. Actor Morgan Freeman noted, “I don’t want a Black History month. Black History is American history.” (Carter had actually already pushed for a yearlong celebration, but he is known for the idea of the “month” celebration.)

Now known as ASALH, Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the organization declares themes for each year to be explored in the Black History Month. The themes range vastly – one example is the 2023 theme of “Black Resistance.” 

In 1986, with the establishment of a national holiday to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, the United States Congress, in a joint resolution, designated the month of February as National Black History Month. President Reagan issued a proclamation that read, “the foremost purpose of Black History Month is to make all Americans aware of this struggle for freedom and equal opportunity.”

As we have already done recently, The Independent strives to tell the local story of what the month means – to us and to our community. While this is certainly not comprehensive coverage, these features below will hopefully provide information and insight as to the history of the Black culture in Kansas City, and the current flavor of what people are doing to celebrate, recognize, and advance our Black community.

The Independent Staff



Rachel’s Reads – February 2024

“Great wines are like great books. Once you take your first ‘sip’, they’re hard to put down.” – James Laube To me pairing books and wine makes perfect sense. They both involve a process of discovery, and they both create a rich and sensory experience. Good wines, like good books, are well-crafted or have a […]

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Caresticks: We Care How We Stick People

Working in the field of phlebotomy requires some very specific qualities, and LaVita Green has those qualities and a whole lot more. First, she isn’t afraid of blood! Second, and more importantly, she cares deeply about the quality of work she and her teams do to ensure safe, reliable blood draws for her clientele. And […]

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BOXOUT: Boxing Out Stress

Ritchie Cherry, Sr. wants to help people with stress, and he is uniquely qualified to do so! Ritchie has a bachelor of science degree in psychology from Langston University, and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Alabama A&M University. Besides that, he was a professional boxer from 2010 to 2015. But possibly the most […]

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Quindaro Ruins Revitalization To Bridge The Past And Present For Future Generations

In the mid 1800s, many who were enslaved traveled through Missouri to Kansas, seeking to escape the bonds of slavery. While Kansas Citians know of Quindaro Boulevard, its namesake was an early Kansas settlement that was integral to the pre-Civil War abolitionist movement. Known today as the Quindaro Ruins, the area is significant to Black […]

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A Fair Future In Healthcare Could Be Coming For Kansas City

Needing medical care is something we all eventually experience. Yet, receiving fair and equal healthcare treatment is not. According to Dr. Jason E. Glenn, associate professor in the department of history and philosophy of medicine at The University of Kansas Medical Center (KU Medical Center), health inequities are most stark in the African American community. […]

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Social Power: Brandon Calloway and G.I.F.T.

The Prize Imagine being only two years into starting a brand new non-profit organization and receiving the call that you have been selected as a 2022 Pinnacle Prize winner! That is exactly what happened to Brandon Calloway, co-founder of G.I.F.T. – Generating Income For Tomorrow. Knee-deep in a movement to provide grants to Black-owned […]

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FREE TO ROAM: Actor thrives onstage and behind the scenes

Many elements came together to make Teisha Bankston into the theater artist she is today. The frequent star of productions at the Unicorn Theatre and Kansas City Actors Theatre recalls an important early improvisation class with Valerie Mackey at Theatre for Young America, where she made friends with like-minded youngsters and began overcoming her natural […]

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CONNECTIONS: Comfortable and Accessible with Maurice Watson

“There is nothing in here you can’t touch, and if I like it, it ends up here.” Such are the words of an art collector who surrounds himself with pieces that speak to him directly, not because of their perceived value or the potential commerce of the artist’s name. Maurice Watson is pretty sure that […]

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Beyond the Bases: Kansas City’s Unique Contribution To Civil Rights

When reflecting on the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, you might recall significant events that advanced the cause. What may not immediately come to mind is baseball and how a series of events in the sport initiated progress for African American rights. With Kansas City as the epicenter, a seemingly unassuming series […]

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