From the Affiliated Societies column of the April 2006 Perspectives
ASALH Celebrates Black History Month
AHA Staff, April 2006
The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, which was founded by Carter G. Woodson in 1915, celebrated Black History Month, with, among other events, a glittering, well-attended luncheon on February 25, 2006. Several hundred guests who gathered at Howard University's Blackburn Center were treated to an excellent meal as well as to a stimulating speech by Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
After the singing of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" by Kiyanna Cox, a musical theater major at Howard University, and an invocation by Bernard Richardson, dean of the Andrew Rankin Chapel at the university, Richard T. Adams, ASALH executive council member welcomed the guests and Daryl Michael Scott, the vice president of programs explained the significance of the event and the work of the association. Following introductory remarks by Lorraine Miller, honorary luncheon chair, greeting speeches were made by Sheila Flemming-Hunter, national president of ASALH, Willard Hall, executive director of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity (the oldest black fraternity in the United States), Michael Steele, the lieutenant governor of Maryland, Margaret Cooper, national president of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, and Gladys Gary-Vaughn, the national president of the Links.
A highlight of the event was the presentation of ASALH's Institution Builder Award to Dorothy I. Height, who was recognized for her lifelong work in support of civil rights, integration, social justice, and education through such organizations as the YWCA, the National Council of Negro Women (of which she was president), and the Bethune Museum and Archives for Black Women, which she founded. The award was presented by Flemming-Hunter, Janet Sims-Wood, the national vice president of ASALH, and Sylvia Cyrus-Albritton, executive director of the association. In her response, Height recollected her encounters with Carter G. Woodson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and her experiences at the YWCA. She said that institutions are more than a parliamentary device—they signify people working together.
Lunch was followed by the speech by Lonnie Bunch, who was introduced by Bettye Gardner, ASALH executive council member. Bunch said that ASALH was one of the great organizations of America and that he was proud to be at the luncheon meeting. Explaining his philosophy for the museum which he is charged with building, Bunch said "not knowing history hurts you," but, he added, quoting James Baldwin, "the great force of history is that we carry it with us." Few institutions address the issue of slavery, Bunch stated, even though it was one of the most important elements of politics and economy, and that it was important for museums to confront the issue. The black past, he said, is a wonderful but unforgiving mirror, a mirror, however that will make the invisible visible. Referring to the theme of the luncheon, "Celebrating Community," Bunch said that though we are vulnerable as individuals, as members of a group, of a community, we will find that all things are possible, and that organizations such as the ASALH are beacons that remind all Americans about the importance of community.
The event ended with acknowledgements offered by Sims-Wood, a closing song by Cox, and benediction by Dean Richardson.