In 1970, Black students and faculty at Kent State University celebrated Black History Month for the first time. It was also observed by other schools and community organizations and was officially recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976. In the decades to come, Black History Month has spread to countries other than the United States, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, and the Netherlands.
We are also celebrating Black History Month at the Knight-Capron Library. You can come into the library building and check out items from our book and media display expertly curated by Evening Circulation Supervisor, Angela Arthur. In addition to this, there is also a Black History Month slideshow on the first floor television monitor. It features a variety of information like short bios of key Black figures like Shirley Chisholm (The first Black woman to run for president of the United States.) and Maria P. Williams (The first Black Woman to write, produce, and direct her own feature film.) as well as QR codes to access online content like The Undefeated's African-Americans Who Shook Up the World project, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, and a research guide for University of Lynchburg's Africana Studies major.
Outside of the library, the greater Lynchburg area has its own Black History highlights that you can check out online, or in person, in some cases. As always, remember to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and follow the CDC's guidelines for protecting yourself from COVID-19.
Anne Spencer (1882-1975) was a Harlem Renaissance poet, Civil Rights activist, and librarian. She lived in Lynchburg, and her house is on the National Register of Historic Places. Currently, tours of Anne Spencer's house, garden, and the adjoining museum are closed, but you can learn more about her life and work at this website.
Anne Spencer's son, Chauncey Spencer (1906-2002) was also from Lynchburg and was a part of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first Black aviation unit in the US Army Air Corps. (Later, the United States Air Force). The Tuskegee Airmen saw combat action in World War II's European theater. Spencer spent his life helping further the cause of African-Americans in the aviation sector and fighting racial segregation in the American armed forces. You can find out more information about him at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum website.
Helen Mundy Witt '67 (1932-2021) was the first Black graduate of Lynchburg college. She was an educator in Lynchburg City Public Schools and wrote a book called As Memories Ebb and Flow. You can learn more about Witt's life story at the link.
The Booker T. Washington National Monument is located about an hour from the University of Lynchburg campus in his birthplace of Hardy, Virginia. Washington was the founder of the Tuskegee Institute (Now, Tuskegee University) and wrote the memoir Up from Slavery about how he went from being a slave on a Virginia plantation to being an educator and leader. You can find more information about the Booker T. Washington National Monument at its official website.