This year’s national theme for the celebration of black achievement during the month of February is “Carter G. Woodson and the Origins of Multiculturalism.” This theme is especially relevant to the Library of Congress because the nation’s library holds Woodson’s papers, collected over nearly four decades. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 and established Negro History week in 1926, in a campaign to bring national focus on the contributions of black Americans.
Known universally as the “Father of Black History Month,” Woodson and his legacy are highlighted in the Library’s exciting array of activities during the month of February. The signature event for the Library’s African American History Month celebration showcases its National Visionary Leadership Project (NVLP) Collection of African American Oral Histories. Scheduled to take place on Friday, Feb. 22, at 11:00 a.m.
in the Montpelier Room on the 6th floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Avenue, SE, Washington, D. C., the program will feature a panel discussion with distinguished dance visionaries Arthur Mitchell, co-founder and artistic director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and dancer/choreographer Carmen De Lavallade. Renee Poussaint, an award-winning former network correspondent and NVLP co-founder, will moderate the discussion. Students from the Dance Theatre of Harlem will also perform. The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required.
In October 2007, NVLP donated to the Library the first 50 of 200 videotaped interviews with prominent African Americans whose oral life histories will be permanently housed in the American Folklife Center. The collection includes interviews with famous blacks who have made significant contributions to society such as Ray Charles, Shirley Chisholm, Quincy Jones, John Hope Franklin and Coretta Scott King. Many of the interviews were conducted by the NVLP co-founders, Poussaint and Camille O. Cosby, an educator and producer. The collection also includes interviews with notable, but less familiar elders from local communities across the country. These visionaries were selected and interviewed by college students who participated in the NVLP Visionary Heritage Fellows Program.
Other public events during February include the opening of a display in the lobby of the Madison Building that focuses on outstanding blacks who have enhanced the origins of multiculturalism; a screening of a comedy revue of performances by Moms Mabley, Chris Rock, Richard Pryor and others; and lectures by Leon Harris, awarding-winning journalist and television anchor, and Ellen Tise, who will discuss libraries and societal change in South Africa. Visit www.loc.gov/events/
for a schedule of events.
The Library of Congress holds several million items of black history and culture. In honor of this month-long celebration, the Library will expand its already extensive online resource page (www.loc.gov/africanamericans
) that features its rich African American collections, from oral histories to collection guides and ready-to-use lesson plans for teachers.