Black History at the UO

Black culture and history will be honored throughout February

Black history is considered to be a critical part of U.S. history, and during February’s Black History Month people have the opportunity to highlight the achievements, struggles, contributions, strength and sacrifices of the black community.

At the UO and in the local community, Black History Month will be honored with presentations, workshops, celebrations and more. Here are some of the events on tap:

On Tuesday, Feb. 5, from 2 to 2:50 p.m., the UO Counseling Center and Duck Nest Wellness Center will sponsor the workshop “Black Mental Health on College Campuses.” The free workshop will address the mental health needs of black college students, historical and cultural barriers that make getting support challenging, and where to find support.

Saturday, Feb. 9, kicks off the New Directions in Black Feminist Studies Speaker Series, organized by Shoniqua Roach, assistant professor of black feminist theory. Erica Edwards, associate professor of English at Rutgers, will give this year's Peggy Pascoe Memorial Lecture, "Counterplanning from the Kitchen Table: June Jordan and the Domestic Literary Enterprise, 1979-1985."

Edwards is an expert in African-American literature and culture. She is the author of “Charisma and the Fictions of Black Leadership” and the forthcoming “The Other Side of Terror: Blackness and the Culture of U.S. Empire.” The event takes place from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Crater Lake South Room in the Erb Memorial Union.

Cheryl Harris will speak on “Affirmative Action Chronicles: From the Era of Colorblindness to White Nationalism,” as part of  the UO African American Workshop and Lecture Series in partnership with the Derrick Bell Lecture Series. Harris is the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Chair in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at UCLA School of Law and has produced groundbreaking scholarship in the field of critical race theory.

Her talk is at 11:45 a.m. Feb. 19 in Room 110 of the Knight Law Center. An RSVP is required.

Rounding out the month of talks will be “Why Aren’t There More Black People in Oregon?: A Hidden History” with Walidah Imarisha. Imarisha is the winner of a 2017 Oregon Book Award for creative nonfiction for “Angels with Dirty Faces: Three Stories of Crime, Prison, and Redemption” and is currently working on an Oregon black history book.

The lecture is from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Feb. 27 in Room 156, Straub Hall and is sponsored by the Center for Study of Women in Society.  

Celebrations are also part of UO Black History Month. The Black Student Union and  the community and campus engagement program in the Division of Equity and Inclusion will sponsor the annual Black Excellence Gala at 6 p.m. Feb. 16 in the EMU’s Redwood Auditorium.

The black studies program and the English department will offer readings, discussion and refreshments to celebrate Douglass Day at 2 p.m. Feb. 14 in the Knight Library Browsing Room. Douglass Day is an annual event honoring the life and legacy of Frederick Douglass, the 19th-century abolitionist, author, newspaper publisher, orator, diplomat and public intellectual.

The Division of Equity and Inclusion also will unveil a digital exhibit featuring work from the “Don’t Touch My Hair Exhibit” that appeared at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. All photographs from the exhibit will be found on the museum’s website, as well as related work, including a video on Ethnic Hair Day at the UO.

The Eugene/Springfield NAACP will hold its annual Freedom Fund Dinner from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 15 at Valley River Inn. This year’s theme is "Educating for the Future!" and highlights the need to support youth through innovative education efforts at the local level.

Black History Month began in 1915 when historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

In 1926, they first sponsored national Negro History Week during the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month, as has every subsequent president.

Each year, the association chooses a Black History month theme; the 2019 theme is “Black Migrations.” According to the association, “Black migrations emphasizes the movement of people of African descent to new destinations and subsequently to new social realities. While inclusive of earlier centuries, this theme focuses especially on the 20th century through today.”

Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Yvette Alex-Assensoh believes the association’s theme is germane to the events and the work at the UO and Oregon, in February and throughout the year.

“From their earliest encounters on American shores, the movement of black people has been indelible in shaping the economy, politics, culture and trajectory of America’s past, present and future,” Alex-Assensoh said. “This year’s theme is particularly fitting in capturing the multidimensionality of black movement as an ongoing reality in American and global history.”

For more information on Black History Month events, see the Equity and Inclusion website.

—By tova stabin, University Communications