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Whether it's art, literature, bluegrass or blues, Black Kentuckians have had a hand in shaping it. The African American Folklorist explores that history by providing a more personal look at culture. Building upon the existing newspaper and podcast series, The African American Folklorist presents a chance to share lesser known stories of influential figures.

The African American Folklorist: The Beginnings of Black History Month

Carter G Woodson
Lamont Jack Pearley
Carter G Woodson

Black History Month, also known as African American History Month was the brainchild of Carter G. Woodson an author, journalist, and historian, in 1925. Looking to bring attention to the contributions of African Americans in a Non- Black dominated American system, Woodson launched the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which quickly lead to the conception and bringing forth of Negro History Week in 1926. Galvanizing the energies and excitement of black teachers, activists, and organizations, as well as white progressives and philanthropists, Black History Month in the course of 50 years grew from a one-week celebration to a nationwide week celebration, all the way to a full month extravaganza encouraged by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976. Since then it’s been a call for politicians to connect with the African American Community.

Below you will find an excerpt from the Weekend Edition Segment:

Dr. Andrew Rosa: Carter G. Woodson established Black History Month at a significant period in the 20th century. This is the period that has been characterized as the new Negro era.

Lamont Jack Pearley: After a 1915 trip to Chicago for the 50th year celebration of emancipation, Carter G. Woodson. Already a scholar decided to do even more to raise the consciousness of black intellectual thought. Dr. Andrew Rosa, African American and African diasporic history professor at Western Kentucky University says Woodson wanted to promote and disseminate understanding about the history of African American people and the contributions that black Americans have made to the history of this country.

Dr. Andrew Rosa: At a time when that wasn't being acknowledged, it was being misinterpreted and misrepresented. In the larger historical professions. Carter G. Woodson took his work as a corrective to the problem within the historical profession, and he also saw it as an important part of fighting for respect and recognition in this country.

Lamont Jack Pearley: The Berea College graduate, earned his Master's from the University of Chicago and was the second African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University Woodson was the founder of the Journal of Negro History and Association for the Study of Negro life in history. He also was the author of a plethora of books, the MIS education of the Negro being of the most popular.

Dr. Andrew Rosa: He started the celebration of Negro History Week in February, to honor the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. So when we think about the time which Carter G. Woodson lived, it's a very sort of Renaissance moment. We see it in arts and letters we see it in music, in the Harlem Renaissance. It's the work of people who are operating from historically black colleges and universities. It is the NAACP, it is the Urban League, it is the United Negro Improvement Association, It’s all of that!

Lamont Jack Pearley: Negro History Week was celebrated across the country and Woodson's organization set the tone while providing study materials such as pictures, lesson plans for teachers, plays for historical performances, and posters of important dates and people. Dr. Selena Doss, African diaspora southern history and American history professor at Western Kentucky University says Woodson’s main purpose was to educate the public.

Dr. Selena Doss: He started because he saw a need the need to teach black history particularly to black children and black people in schools throughout the country. And what started with the week, he pretty soon realized that it just wasn't enough time. So from a week, it ballooned into Negro History Month.

Lamont Jack Pearley: Woodson worked to educate all of the magnitude of not just notable blacks, but everyday hardworking African Americans in hopes it brought an understanding that would lead to opportunities and mutual respect.

Dr. Selana Doss: not only black people but the larger American public too, about the contributions, the experiences, the life stories.

Lamont Jack Pearley is an applied folklorist, ethnographer and African American traditional music historian and practitioner enrolled at WKU in the African American and Folk Studies programs. He is an African American Studies Ambassador with the African American Studies Department, hosts a weekly segment on WKU Public Radio called the African American Folklorist, and is the editor of the African American Folklorist Newspaper. He was inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame as Great Blues Historian and TV/Radio Producer (2017) and Great Blues Artist (2018).
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