As February draws to a close (and we hope takes all ice and snow with it), we mark the end of another Black History Month at Davidson. The origins of Black History Month are found in the creation of a Negro history week in 1926 by the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Celebrated in February, it provided the impetus during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s and 1970s to promote a Black History Month. President Gerald Ford officially declared the first national Black History Month in 1976.
Davidson was slightly behind the times but making an effort. Members of the Black Student Coalition invited faculty to participate in Davidson’s first Black Week in April 1976.
In 1980, the BSC used the Davidsonian to invite students to join in Black History Month activities. This letter begins by acknowledging campus misconceptions, including that the BSC is “not a budding Black Panther Party,” or just a “social club of blacks.” It concludes by quoting the coalition’s constitution, “We the black students of Davidson do establish this kindred to preserve the pride and dignity of the students who have gone on before us, as well as those who will follow after us. With the foundation of a strong liberal arts education, we seek to insure that our cultural heritage is remembered, preserved, and maintained as long as this kindred exists.”
“this year’s programs were most strikingly marked not by the enthusiasm with which Coalition members prepared the programs, nor by the unquestionable benefits to be gained from consideration of the viewpoints expressed, but regrettably by the dismally low attendance of the events by the Davidson student body.”
In 1988, Muadi Mukenge took the opportunity to pen an editorial on the importance of black history, while the calendar listings in the Davidsonian remained silent on any special activities related to black history.
By 1989, the Dean of Student’s Office joined with the BSC in organizing events for the Black History Month Cultural Arts Series. Speakers that year included Dr. C. Eric Lincoln and Dr. Henry Louis Gates.
The cultural art series continued into the 1990s featuring alumni speakers, art and dance exhibitions, cooking workshops, and films.
In recent years, the cultural arts series name has faded but the graphics have gotten better. More importantly, more groups on campus have joined in sponsoring the even, including other student groups (OLAS, the Organization of Latin American Studies), centers (Civic Engagement and Vann Ethics) and academic departments (History, German, Film and Media Studies, Education).