Organizers are gearing up for the 14th annual “It’s A Celebration” Black History Month program, set from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17, in the one-room schoolhouse at the Newton County Historical Park and Museum, 121 N. Washington St., one block north of the Neosho Square.
“I was asked to do this 14 years ago. I just took it on as something that I could do to kind of let people know that, ‘hey, we are still around here,’” said Ida Mae Smiles, organizer of the event, “and a few of the accomplishments that black folks have made.”
The event is free and open to the public. It will consist of music from Neosho’s Second Baptist Church and the Community Choir of Joplin, poetry, refreshments and a guest speaker, Curtis Gregory, with George Washington Carver National Monument, Diamond.
“I usually give [speakers] the theme and then they can talk about whatever they want,” she said. “If he wants to talk about George Washington Carver or whatever, I let them choose what they would like to talk about.”
Attendance has been good in years past.
“The most that we have had is about 45,” Smiles said. “We are just looking forward to just letting our children know that Black America had a lot to do with the founding of America.”
About Black History Month
February is a federally recognized, nation-wide celebration that provides the opportunity for all Americans to reflect on the significant roles that African Americans have played in the shaping of the United States history. Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) is considered to be a pioneer in the study of African American history. The son of former slaves, Woodson spent his childhood working in coal mines and quarries. He received his education during the four-month term that was customary for black schools at the time. At the age of 19, having taught himself English fundamentals and arithmetic, Woodson entered high school, where he completed a four-year curriculum in two years. He later went onto the University of Chicago receiving his master’s degree and then on to Harvard for his PhD.
In 1926, Woodson developed Negro History Week. He believed that "the achievements of the Negro properly set forth will crown him as a factor in early human progress and a maker of modern civilization."
Woodson chose the second week of February for the celebration because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the Black American population: Frederick Douglass (Feb. 14), an escaped slave who became one of the foremost black abolitionists and civil rights leaders in the nation, and President Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12), who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which abolished slavery in America's confederate states.
Page 2 of 2 - In 1976, Negro History Week expanded into Black History Month.
For more information, please contact the Newton County Historical Park and Museum at 451-4940.