Nearly a century ago, what we now recognize as Black History Month began on the South Side of Chicago.
In February 1926, University of Chicago alum Carter G. Woodson, AB 1908, AM 1908, spoke at the Wabash YMCA in Bronzeville to announce the creation of Negro History Week—arguing that life in the United States could not be fully understood without studying the contributions of Black Americans.
Today, Black History Month represents an opportunity to examine the parts of American history that have been overlooked, and to consider how systemic racism and other long-standing structural inequities continue to impact our lives today.
To help further such discussions, below are a selection of events taking place across UChicago this month.
- Wednesday, Feb. 2: The Harris School of Public Policy will host a series of conversations throughout Black History Month, including an appearance by Eddie S. Glaude Jr. of Princeton University. In this virtual event, Glaude will examine the state of movements for social and racial justice following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Other Harris events this month will feature New Yorker columnist Jelani Cobb (Feb. 9); Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett and former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (Feb. 17); and the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III (Feb. 23).
- Tuesday, Feb. 8: Award-winning author Bernadine Evaristo will discuss her new memoir Manifesto: On Never Giving Up with Prof. Rachel DeWoskin, a virtual conversation hosted by the Seminary Co-op. On the same day, the Co-op will also host author Badia Ahad-Legardy to discuss Afro-Nostalgia: Feeling Good in Contemporary Black Culture with Asst. Prof. Kaneesha Cherelle Parsard, an event presented in partnership with UChicago's Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture. On Feb. 17, Parsard will discuss Black Age: Oceanic Lifespans and the Time of Black Life with author Habiba Ibrahim.
- Monday, Feb. 15: The Smart Museum of Art will open a new exhibition focusing on visionary African American painter Bob Thompson. Running through May 15, Bob Thompson: This House Is Mine brings together works from almost 50 private and public collections across the country.
- Wednesday, Feb. 16: Assoc. Prof. Allyson Nadia Field will discuss African American affection in early American cinema, and how it can serve as a powerful testament to Black humanity at a time of rampant misrepresentation. The event marks the return of the Harper Lecture series, which will continue into March and is hosted by UChicago Alumni.
- Thursday, Feb. 17: The Office for Military-Affiliated Communities will host a discussion with African American service members, including Kenneth Wilson, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and professor of surgery at UChicago Medicine.
- Monday, Feb. 21: UChicago’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Celebration will feature a keynote address from educational equity advocate Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of Rev. Oliver Brown, lead plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education. The event, which will be livestreamed from Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, will also include a conversation between Pastor Chris Harris of Bright Star Community Church and Deborah Gorman-Smith, dean of UChicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice.
Editor's note: This story originally included UChicago Jazz Ensemble's performance of the music of Oliver Nelson. The concert has been postponed, with a new date to be determined.