Monday, March 5, 2012

Marking African American History Month

In 1926, Carter G. Woodson initiated Negro History Week, which during the bicentennial was expanded to Black History Month. Created to celebrate the achievements of African Americans, Black History Month also recognizes the central role played by people of African descent in the history of the United States. In recognition of Black History Month we were very fortunate to have Professor Carla Peterson visit with the Library Company’s Program in African American History. In the inaugural Black History Month program, Professor Peterson introduced her newest publication, Black Gotham: A Family History of African Americans in Nineteenth-Century New York, to a very engaged audience. Although Professor Peterson’s work focuses on 19th-century New York, her talk incorporated a broader discussion about slavery, freedom, race, and gender that was applicable to African Americans in antebellum Philadelphia. Professor Peterson’s talk reminded history lovers that freedom was experienced and expressed by members of the black elite all along the east coast. Peterson’s fascinating family tree introduced a vibrant group of black entrepreneurs, politicians, and religious leaders to audience members. By focusing on her great-great grandfather Peter Guignon and great-grandfather Philip White, Peterson traced the forgotten stories of New York’s black elite who lived before and during the Civil War. 

The stories found in Black Gotham serve as a reminder of the buried past. We are indebted to Carla Peterson, and to other scholars, who make it their mission to uncover the past and to incorporate it into the larger narrative of American history.

Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Director, Program in African American History

Check out the Library Company's upcoming programs

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