The Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center is hosting a kickoff celebration for Black History Month on Friday, Feb. 1, beginning at noon. The program includes vibrant music by drum ensemble Nature’s Drummers and a brief presentation on the historical significance of the month as well as the events to come by Assistant Dean of Students and Director of the Black Cultural Center Rosevelt Noble.
Black History Month, initially titled Negro History Week, was launched in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson, one of the first African Americans to earn a doctorate from Harvard. Woodson timed the week to coincide with the birthdays of Fredrick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month and called for the public to recognize the history, accomplishments and contributions of African Americans throughout the country’s history.
A series of programs, events and lectures to celebrate Black History Month has been planned for Vanderbilt community members. The Black Cultural Center has created an online calendar of events happening throughout Black History Month, including events hosted by the center and those of partnering offices, departments and organizations.
Among the events scheduled in February are:
- Black Atlantic Lecture with Herman Bennett: The 2019 Black Atlantic Lecture, titled “Before the Human: Africans, Sovereigns and Slaves,” presented by the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities Circum-Atlantic Studies Seminar, the Center for Latin American Studies and the Black Cultural Center. The Feb. 4 program at the Black Cultural Center starts at 4 p.m. and will feature Herman Bennett, professor of history at the City College of New York. The event is free and open to the public.
- Black History Immersion Excursion: The Black Cultural Center will take a group of students, staff and faculty on its inaugural Black History Immersion Excursion to Alabama, traveling to the cities of Montgomery and Selma. The excursion includes stops at the Civil Rights Museum and Memorial, the Freedom Rides Museum, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the Edmund Pettus Bridge and more. The trip is from Feb. 8 to 10 and is co-sponsored by African American and Diaspora Studies, Inclusion Initiatives and Cultural Competence, and Housing and Residential Education.
- Angie Thomas keynote: A Feb. 13 keynote lecture by award-winning author of The Hate U Give Angie Thomas is being presented by Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Scheduled for Langford Auditorium, doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and the program will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are free but are required and may be obtained online through Ticketweb.
- ‘Rikers: An American Jail’ screening: A screening and discussion of Rikers: An American Jail on Feb. 18 at the Black Cultural Center Auditorium. The free public event begins at 5:30 p.m. and is co-sponsored by the Black Cultural Center and the Provost’s Office for Inclusive Excellence.
- Author discussion with Anthony Ray Hinton: A moderated discussion with the author of The Sun Does Shine, Anthony Ray Hinton, who was exonerated after 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. The free public program is on Feb. 19 from 7 to 9 p.m. in Benton Chapel. A full list of sponsors for the discussion and event registration are available on Eventbrite.
- Walter R. Murray lecture with Sheryll Cashin: The university’s 11th annual Walter R. Murray Lecture is scheduled for Feb. 20 at 4 p.m. in Sarratt Cinema. Vanderbilt alumna and Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law, Civil Rights and Social Justice at Georgetown University Law Center Sheryll Cashin will deliver the lecture titled “The Descendants: From Slavery to Jim Crow to Dark Ghettos, a Call for New Ambition.” The lecture, which is co-sponsored by the Black Cultural Center and The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons, recognizes the legacy of Murray, who was one of Vanderbilt’s first African American undergraduates. He founded the Afro-American Student Association—now known as the Black Student Association—served as vice president of the Student Government Association, and was the first African American to serve on the university’s Board of Trust after being elected Young Alumni Trustee in April 1970.
For a full listing of events and additional information, visit the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center website.