~Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
Origins and honors
Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950: pictured above) was an American historian, scholar, and the founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Woodson was instrumental in launching Negro History Week in 1926. It was chosen because it includes the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist (someone who wanted to end the practice of enslaving people), and former U.S. president Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln led the United States during the Civil War, which was primarily fought over the enslavement of Black people in the country. Many schools and leaders began recognizing the week after its creation.
The week-long event officially became Black History Month in 1976 when U.S. president Gerald Ford extended the recognition to “honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Black History Month has been celebrated in the United States every February since.
Black History is American History
Black History Month is a platform for education and it should ideally be filed under ‘history’. But for now, it has four weeks every year. If we want to create a society where all Black children feel as represented as white children–a place where they feel that they belong. At Goodwill, we think this month is an important time to discuss, reflect, and acknowledge the truths of history that are often overlooked. But to also keep the conversations going all year. And to remember to include these new things we learn in our regular teachings. If you’ve partnered Goodwill Industries of South MS, you might know that diversity and inclusion are important topics for us. Not just because we employ and develop careers for people who are of all races, but because we believe that talking about race and the differences that make the culture unique. Talking with children helps us become more empathetic and understanding of others.
Iconic Figures of Black History Month
This month of remembrance often celebrates prominent figures in the Black and African American communities. Such figures include Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Muhammad Ali. However, it’s equally important to celebrate the countless other African Americans who are making a profound mark in history today. From poet Amanda Gorman’s inaugural address to recently passed actor Chadwick Boseman’s exceptional mark in performance arts, Black History Month is a celebration of historical achievements in both the past and the here and now.
Make an impact in your community
On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, there are several available resources to empower minority professionals. Below you'll find different organizations on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that will help support your cause plus a few extra nationally known support systems.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College
The Legacy Business League MS Gulf Coast
MS Gulf Coast Black History
The Biloxi Wade-In civil rights protests were conducted by local African Americans on the beaches of Biloxi, Mississippi between 1959 and 1963. Physician Gilbert R. Mason Sr. led the demonstrations to desegregate beaches on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Biloxi Wade-Ins were the first major Civil Rights campaign in Mississippi.
In June 1959, another Mason friend, Dr. Felix H. Dunn, wrote to the Harrison County Board of Supervisors, asking, “What laws, if any, prohibit the use of the beach facilities by Negro citizens?” The Board president responded that property owners along the beach owned both “the beach and water from the shoreline extending out 1,500 feet meaning that black swimmers were trespassing if they came onto the beach. Sporadic wade-ins, as they were now called, continued along Biloxi beaches until the final protest on June 23, 1963
Although the 1964 Civil Rights Act officially desegregated Biloxi beaches, only in 1968 were the Biloxi beaches finally opened to all races. In 2009, on the 50th anniversary of the first wade-in, a section of U.S. Route 90 near Biloxi was renamed the Dr. Gilbert Mason Sr. Memorial Highway.
Black settlers in 1866 establish Turkey Creek Community
The Gulfport, Mississippi, community of Turkey Creek was established in 1866 by Black settlers newly emancipated from slavery, and many community residents today trace their ancestry to those founders. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, the Turkey Creek Community Historic District encompasses the former site of the Yaryan/Phoenix Naval Stores Company, which employed local workers in producing creosote by boiling pine stumps in gasoline. Community elders still recall a massive industrial explosion that killed 11 people there in 1943.
Educator, historian and Turkey Creek native Derrick Evans returned from Boston in 2003 to found the community development organization Turkey Creek Community Initiatives. After learning that a derelict house he had bought was originally the Naval Stores Company’s pay office, he collaborated with the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain to secure $499,500 from the National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Grant Program to restore the building.
The Bay St. Louis, Mississippi–based firm Unabridged Architecture exhaustively documented the deteriorating structure, which had likely survived the 1943 blast thanks to exterior plaster fireproofing. The firm then rehabilitated the building, restoring its separate front doors (a legacy of segregation), its wood-paneled interior, and a porch likely destroyed in the accident. Completed in August of 2021, the renewed building—the only remaining structure from the company—houses the Yaryan-Phoenix Naval Stores Museum and Turkey Creek Community Initiatives.
Full List of Black history landmarks on the MS Gulf Coast
Free Library of Philadelphia
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