SALISBURY, MD---African-American History Month and Salisbury University were established within a few months of each other and this academic year these two institutions are celebrating their 80th anniversary.
Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson, a Harvard-trained Ph.D., launched “Negro History Week” during February 1926, because he felt two people born during this month had dramatically affected the lives of Black Americans: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Just as the State Normal School at Salisbury eventually evolved into a college and university, 50 years after Dr. Woodson’s initial commemoration his annual event has grown to become the highly popular Black History Month.
The Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH) helps promote and coordinate a national Black History theme each year. 2006 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first continuous collegiate black Greek letter fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, and ASALH is using the centenary as a linchpin for the topic “Celebrating Community: A Tribute to Black Fraternal, Social and Civic Institutions.”
Here at SU we are holding a series of activities and performances as part of this national celebration:
On Thursday, February 9, at 7:30 p.m. in the Wicomico Room of the Guerrieri University Center, Lawrence Ross, author of The Divine Nine, the first book to chronicle the histories of the nine African-American fraternities and sororities that make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council, will deliver SU’s Black History Month keynote address. The Divine Nine has been a Blackboard Bestseller, a two-time Essence Magazine bestseller and a Los Angeles Times bestseller. It remains in the top 10 African-American Studies Bestsellers on Amazon.com. and is the highest selling book among African-American college students.
February 5-11, tenor John Wesley Wright holds a week-long residency sponsored by the Department of Music. He performs with the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra, singing arias and African-American spirituals, on Saturday, February 11, at 8 p.m. in Holloway Hall Auditorium.
Wright has performed in opera houses, concert halls and festivals throughout the world. The recipient of numerous awards and prizes including the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, the International Schubert Competition and Bel Canto Regional Artists, he won the $10,000 first prize at the Savannah Music Festival American Traditions Competition.
A Christmas recording he made with the award-winning Belgian children’s choir Scala led to his singing a nationally televised Christmas Eve concert there at the Royal Palace for the Belgian Royal Family.
With a Master of Music from the University of Cincinnati College—Conservatory of Music, he teaches at the University of Dayton where he is artist-in residence and co-director of its Opera Workshop.
Wednesday, February 15, SU’s Dining Services holds its annual soul food dinner in the Bistro, followed at 7:30 p.m. in the Wicomico Room, the Key Arts production of The Road to Freedom: a Journey Toward Peace. This lively musical and multimedia performance celebrates the works and heroic efforts of such luminaries as Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington and others. This is a powerful educational program for all people.
Historian and author Ross J. Kelbaugh discusses his book, Introduction to African-American Photographs, Thursday, February 23, at 3:30 p.m. in the Great Hall of Holloway Hall. Sponsored by the Nabb Research Center and Helen and Niel Carey, Kelbaugh is also doing an “Antiques Road Show” style evaluation of antique, vintage and curious old photographs as part of his presentation. An avid collector, Kelbaugh bought one 19th century photo of an Eastern Shore African-American woman for approximately $40. It is now worth in the thousands of dollars. Start reviewing family photo albums. There may be gold in those images of the past.
On Saturday, February 25, SU’s Black History Month celebration concludes with two performances of the acclaimed Voices: Those Who Wore the Shoe, the stage adaptation of historic interviews with former American slaves. Voices was also adapted for radio and premiered on NPR. In 1934 the Federal Writer’s Project sent hundreds of writers to interview the few thousand former slaves still living in the United States, who were well into their late 80s to early 100s. The FWP recorded over 40,000 pages of transcripts. Harlin Kearsley created a 90-minute stage production from the transcripts, and four actors will give two performances in the Fulton Hall Black Box Theatre: at 2 and 7 p.m.
The Office of Multiethnic Student Services and Diversity Office sponsor the activities. Admission to all events, except the SSO concert and dinner, are free. For more information call the SU Office of Multiethnic Student Services at 410-548-4503.