Emory to mark Black History Month with lectures, films and more


Black History Month events at Oxford kicked off February 3 with a National Pan-Hellenic Council Showcase.
Volunteers glean vegetables from Oxford's Organic Farm as part of Oxford's Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

Oxford’s own Ken Carter, Adrienne Button, and Maria Davis were recognized along with other works written or edited by 98 Emory faculty authors at the annual A Feast of Words event held on February 10 at the Michael C. Carlos Museum.

February bring a variety of activities across Emory’s campuses in recognition of Black History Month, including lectures, film screenings and poetry readings.

“Black History Month allows us the opportunity to reflect on the many contributions people of African heritage have made to the building of world culture — the breadth and depth of the exceptional excellence in spite of overwhelming odds,” says Carol Henderson, Emory’s chief diversity officer and vice provost for diversity and inclusion. 

“Black History Month is also a teachable moment — you can’t talk about America’s foundation without considering these contributions,” she explains. “In tandem, in how we honor that work, we must consider the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion and how we work toward the common good in celebrating those values. Those are the hallmarks of a true democracy.”

What has now become Black History Month began in 1926 as Negro History Week, created by historian Carter G. Woodson, founder of  the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Woodson, the second African American to earn a PhD from Harvard, timed the week to coincide with the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. 

Fifty years later, in 1976, the organization, now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, expanded the celebration from a week to a month. 

President Gerald Ford issued the first national Black History Month proclamation in 1976, noting the relevance of 1976 as the bicentennial of the United States.

“Freedom and the recognition of individual rights are what our revolution was all about. They were ideals that inspired our fight for independence: ideals that we have been striving to live up to ever since. Yet it took many years before these ideals became a reality for black citizens,” Ford noted.

“In celebrating Black History Month, we can take satisfaction from this recent progress in the realization of the ideals envisioned by our Founding Fathers. But, even more than this, we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history,” Ford continued.

Here’s a selection of Black History Month events at Emory that are open to the public.

Emory Cinematheque Film Series

Wednesdays, Feb. 5, 12, 19 and 26, at 7:30 p.m.
White Hall, Room 208

The Emory Cinematheque, a weekly series of free film screenings, presents “African Americans in American Film” for its spring 2020 program. The series showcases and examines African American narratives, performers and filmmakers in American cinema over the last 100 years.

The full series runs until April 22. Four of the titles feature Academy Award-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr., who will be in attendance at the screenings of his films and will participate in post-screening discussions.  

February screenings will be:

Learn about the full Cinematheque series here.

Frederick Douglass Day reading

Friday, Feb. 14, at 12:30 p.m.
McDonough Plaza, Emory’s Atlanta campus

On the day that celebrates the life and work of abolitionist and social reformer Frederick Douglass, students from Emory will gather to read one of his speeches on women, suffrage and voting. The event is part of a nationwide initiative to honor Douglass’ legacy. 

Race and Difference Colloquium Series

Mondays, Feb. 10, 17 and 24 at 12 p.m.

The James Weldon Johnson Institute hosts the Race and Difference Colloquium Series, a weekly event featuring local and national speakers presenting academic research on contemporary questions of race and intersecting dimensions of difference. February programs include the following. All are held in the Robert W. Woodruff Library’s Jones Room, except where noted.

Documentary screening: “College Behind Bars”

Tuesday, Feb. 18, and Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 4 p.m.
White Hall, Room 208 

The Department of African American Studies hosts a two-day screening of Ken Burns’ PBS documentary “College Behind Bars,” which explores the transformative power of education through the eyes of a dozen incarcerated men and women trying to earn college degrees from the Bard Prison Initiative, one of the country’s most rigorous education programs. Learn more about College Behind Bars.

Documentary panel discussion: “Race and the Criminal Injustice System”

Thursday, Feb. 20, at 4 p.m.
Rita Anne Rollins Building, Room 252 

The screening of “College Behind Bars” will culminate with a panel discussion of “Race and the Criminal Injustice System.” Panelists will include Dyjuan Tatro, who was featured in the documentary and is captain of the BPI debate team that beat Harvard, and Jessica Neptune, director of national engagement at BPI. Emory faculty members Alyasah Sewell and Carl Suddler will moderate the discussion. Learn more Race and the Criminal Justice System

16th Annual Hamilton E. Holmes Memorial Lecture

Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 5 p.m.
James B. Williams Medical Education Building, Room 110

Guest lecturer Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp is the first black female to graduate from Emory School of Medicine. She is the senior medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a 2018 recipient of the Samuel J. Heyman Public Service Career Achievement Award. Admission to the lecture is free but RSVPs are requested due to limited space.

12th Night Revel with Nikki Giovanni

Friday, Feb. 21, at 6:30 p.m.
Robert W. Woodruff Library 

Award-winning poet Nikki Giovanni will serve as guest poet at the 20th anniversary 12th Night Revel, the signature benefit event for the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library. Giovanni is one of America’s foremost poets, having published numerous collections of poetry, several works of nonfiction and children’s literature and multiple recordings. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit the 12th Night Revel ticket page.

Poetry reading with Nikki Giovanni

Saturday, Feb. 22, at 4 p.m.
Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts 

Award-winning poet Nikki Giovanni will read from her work as part of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library Reading Series, now in its 15th season. Giovanni has written many collections of poetry, starting with her first self-published volume “Black Feeling, Black Talk” (1968). She has also published several works of nonfiction, children’s literature, and multiple recordings.

Tickets for the reading are not required, but seating will be limited. Doors will open 30 minutes prior to the event. Books and a limited-edition broadside will be for sale at the reading, with a signing immediately after. Learn more about Poetry reading with Nikki Giovanni

Poetry reading with Jericho Brown

Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 7:30 p.m.
Oxford College Student Center, Greer Forum 

Jericho Brown is an associate professor and director of Emory’s Creative Writing Program. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard and the National Endowment for the Arts. His poetry has earned multiple honors, including his latest work, “The Tradition,” being a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award in Poetry. Learn more about Poetry reading with Jericho Brown.

Panel discussion: “Reparations: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?”

Thursday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m.
The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum
441 John Lewis Freedom Parkway, Atlanta 

The James Weldon Johnson Institute and Emory’s Office of the Provost will host a discussion of “Reparations: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?” Panelists will include professors from Emory, University of Chicago, Ohio State University, Clemson University and MIT.

The event is free for Emory students, faculty and staff, although reservations are needed. Others may purchase tickets for $2 each plus a small processing fee. Learn more and reserve tickets for Reparations: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?.

Student-focused activities  

The entire Emory community is invited to any of the events listed above, but numerous organizations and student groups across the Atlanta and Oxford campuses have planned their own events for students.

Highlights for students on the Atlanta campus:

  • Graduate student lunch and learn with Marisol Lebrón on “Social Media, Academia and Activism”: Wednesday, Feb. 5, at 12 p.m. in Room N302 of the Emory Student Center; space is limited so RSVP is required.
  • Black Student Alliance game night: Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m. at the Emory Black Student Union (Alumni Memorial University Center, Room 106)
  • Lecture on dealing with activist burnout featuring Emory counseling services: Thursday, Feb. 27, at 4 p.m. in Room N309 of the Emory Student Center 

Find the latest information on these and other student activities at Emory Campus Life

Highlights on the Oxford campus:

  • National Pan-Hellenic Council Showcase: Monday, Feb. 3, at 6:30 p.m. in Greer Forum of the Oxford Student Center
  • OxMOC (Oxford Men of Color) Men’s Etiquette and Tie Relay Race: Thursday, Feb. 13, at 7 p.m. in Williams Auditorium
  • BlackOUT Alumni Reunion Weekend: Friday, Feb. 21, at 6:30 p.m. in Williams Auditorium; alumnus Gerald Griggs will speak 

For more information on these or other events on the Oxford College campus, contact Anthony Mize Jr. in Oxford’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

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