Georgia State celebrates Black History Month virtually

Atlanta’s Black History Month celebrations will go virtual, including the Georgia State Multicultural Center’s events. Photo by Hanna Middleton | The Signal

According to the Library of Congress, historian Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1925 to “raise awareness of African American’s contributions to civilization.”

He then announced Negro History Week, which saw its first celebration in February 1926. Woodson chose February since it is the birth month of both 16th U.S. president Abraham Lincoln and social reformer Frederick Douglass.

In 1975, President Ford officially proclaimed Negro History Week a national holiday, encouraging people to “recognize the important contribution made to our nation’s life and culture by Black citizens.”

In 1976, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History extended Negro History Week to Black History Month, and President Ford delivered a message about observing the holiday.  

In 1986, Congress passed Public Law 99-244, announcing February 1986 to be the first “National Black History Month.” According to the law, Feb. 1, 1986 “mark[ed] the beginning of the sixtieth annual public and private salute to Black History.”

According to the National Park Service website, “the history of African Americans in Atlanta is synonymous with the history of Atlanta itself, and is one of progress and perseverance.”

Being a city with rich African American history, Atlanta has various celebrations for Black History Month. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlantans usually hold festivals and parades for the celebration. However, the 2021 celebrations may change because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Atlanta’s annual Black History Month parade began in 2012, founded by community leader Earl Little. 

The 2019 Black History Month parade started at Hurt Park and marched 1.08 miles to Centennial Olympic Park. According to the parade’s website, it is “The Largest Celebration of African-American History Month in the Southeast.”

However, like many events in 2021, the staff has canceled the parade for this year.

“We had a Magnificent turn out for 2019. Thank You For Your Support. Due to COVID Parade restrictions, we hope to see everyone in 2022. Bringing it Bigger and Better for your Enjoyment. This is a Rain or Shine Event. [Earl Little’s] Legacy Continues,” the parade’s website states. 

There is a well-known, Black-owned tour called Hop’N Go Tours for people to discover Atlanta’s rich history through sightseeing. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution states that their Day Tour is very price-worthy: “For $125, you can visit Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Madam C.J. Walker Museum and the Sweet Auburn Historic District, to name a few.”

Like many events in 2021, Black History Month will look different in Metro Atlanta, with many taking their celebrations to Zoom.

Dekalb History Center’s annual Black History Month event, “Growing in Power and Promise,” will operate entirely through Zoom this year. The virtual event explores the contributions of Black families to the Atlanta community.

“The DeKalb History Center’s 13th Annual Black History Month program will focus on celebrating the African American families that shaped DeKalb’s and Atlanta’s history from Reconstruction to the present,” the event description states.

The event includes musical selections, genealogy discussions and a panel discussion. Attendees will go to breakout sessions and hear the stories of metro Atlanta’s oldest Black families. 

“Presenters include reference archivist of the Georgia Archives Tamika Strong, president of South-View Cemetery Association Winifred Hemphill, curator of the Flat Rock Museum Johnny Waites and historian of Decatur’s African American heritage Laurel Wilson,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution states. 

The event begins on Feb. 11, and tickets are $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers.

Georgia State celebrates Black History Month as well. Ms. Tonya Cook, the Multicultural Center program specialist for the Perimeter Campuses, said the Multicultural Center organizes activities such as pop shows on all campuses every February. 

In particular, the 2020 celebrations were special since February 2020 was the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance, an African American cultural revival beginning in New York City in 1920. 

“There were activities held on all campuses. Students watched and took pictures of the Harlem Renaissance dances to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Harlem Renaissance,” Cook said. 

This year’s theme for Black History Month is “2021 Family Reunion: Celebrating Black Culture, Reviving Our Roots.”

“The theme … commemorates Black families gathering to preserve culture and traditions, share information, and celebrate achievements,” the Georgia State Multicultural Center website states. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Multicultural Center will only hold virtual celebrations this year. 

The Multicultural Center held a Talk Tuesday with TRiO called “We Gon’ Be Alright: Open Dialogue on Race, Restorative Justice and How We Heal Despite Difference.” The talk celebrated the fifth annual National Day of Racial Healing and is now on their YouTube channel. Many professionals spoke in the panel, including student affairs advisor William Britto and politician Devin Barrington-Ward. 

The Multicultural Center is now calling for program submissions to “capture the essence of the Black Family Reunion.” Students can create art and host film screenings, speakers, discussion and educational events to contribute to the event.