The Black American story is a story of tragedy, but at the same time a story of resilience and progress. Slavery, Jim Crow Laws and segregation left a vile mark on the history of the United States. Although those days have come and gone, the black community struggles with oppression that lives on in the form of institutional racism. To this day, discrimination can be seen in medical care, wage gaps, the criminal justice system, politics, housing and education. Despite this unjust treatment, the black community has not only survived, but persevered.
For this year’s Black History Month let us remember three individuals who dedicated their lives to educating the black community: Cyrus P. Grosvenor, Dr. Carter G. Woodson and Dorothy I. Height.
Cyrus Grosvenor was a Baptist minister and abolitionist who played a prominent role in the Anti-Slavery movement. He was a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and attended the first World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, 1840. Grosvenor was the president and founder of New York Central College located in McGraw, NY. Central College (active from 1849 to 1860) was revolutionary because black students and female students could attend the college. Moreover, Central college was the first college in the United States to employ black professors.
Dr. Woodson, known as the, “Father of Black History,” was a Black American historian, author, publisher and editor. He was the second Black American to receive a doctorate’s degree from Harvard University. Dr. Woodson thought it imperative that Black Americans know the accomplishments and contributions of their people; “those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.” In 1915, he helped develop the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) and in February 1926 Dr. Woodson established the first Black History Week.
Dorothy I. Height was a Black American civil rights and women’s rights activist. She dedicated almost 70 years to the improvement of the lives of Black Americans but especially to Black American Women. In 1937 Height became a staff member of the Harlem YWCA and integrated all the YWCA centers by 1946. She would often travel abroad to expand the work of the YWCA and once served as a visiting professor at the University of Delhi, India. In 1957 Height became the president of the National Council of Black Women and in 1970 established the Women’s Center for Education and Career Advancement (WCECA). WCECA, located in New York City, helped to provide Black women with marketable job skills, thus, giving them more economic opportunities.
Black Americans are doctors and nurses who tend to the sick and dying. They are soldiers who fight for and protect the United States. Black Americans are artists, entrepreneurs, scientists, police officers, lawyers, firefighters, astronauts, activists and mathematicians. Black Americans are religious leaders who help people in need, and they are educators who help shape the minds of the next generation.
As we, the Cortland Democratic Committee, recognize and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of the Black community we invite all Cortland residents to do the same. We look forward to participating in this years Black History Month events and thank the local organizations who worked hard to make these events possible. Lastly, let us all continue to support and celebrate the black community not only in the month of February but all year around.