A historical society founded by the father of Black History month is 100 years old. he Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) was founded on Sept. 9, 1915 by Carter G. Woodson. ASALH is now based at Howard University and has chapters all over the country.
Scholars and history buffs honored Woodson Wednesday by unveiling a plaque honoring his achievements at the Bronzeville YMCA.
“One hundred years later we still have this organization,” Darlene Clark Hine, a professor at Northwestern University told WBEZ 91.5. “This organization has essentially created and sustained a space for the production and teaching of African-American history at all levels from the grammar school all the way up to the university. Not too many organizations have been in the vanguard of developing and challenging us to learn more about the contributions and the experiences of African Americans to the creation of this country.”
Woodson established Negro History Week in the 1920s, which later became known as Black History Month. It’s widely believed that Woodson started the historical society in reaction to the release of the racist movie, Birth of a Nation.
“We know that wasn’t the complete story,” said Lionel Kimble, a history professor at Chicago State University and ASALH Chicago president. “Woodson saw something dynamic about Black life here in Chicago. This was a very fluid, ever changing, important Black community so it was very appropriate that Woodson was here.”
La Vonne I. Neal, a dean in the College of Education, at Northern Illinois University and a member of ASALH, said Woodson was one of the first people to raise national awareness about the importance of studying and preserving Black history.
“Dr. Woodson was an early and highly influential voice on the significance and importance of education and scholarly pursuits by African Americans and other underrepresented groups,” said Neal. “Over the years, many gifted scholars at NIU have benefited from the support of the Carter G. Woodson Scholars Program. The university is proud to be a part of Dr. Woodson’s legacy, and we are excited to join the Chicago Branch of ASALH in celebrating the 100th birthday of the organization.”