For many years the African American Awareness Research Council (AAARC) has held a February program with the Highland County District Library in Hillsboro to honor the lifetime achievements of a local individual or to highlight an aspect of the community’s history.
It is in the process of changing the program format, partly because members have not been able to meet much due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is calling on the community to help.
“This year we’re trying to do fundraisers to present several scholarships to members of the class of 2020,” said Lee Smith, AAARC vice president. “It’s something different, but something we may continue to help minorities get an education.”
Smith said the number of scholarships presented will depend on how much money can be raised.
Donations can be sent to Robert Lee Smith, 125 Greystone Drive, Hillsboro, Ohio 45133; or for more information Smith can be reached at 937-509-9007.
The AAARC covers Highland, Clinton and Fayette counties. It’s annual program is held in February because that is Black History Month. Hillsboro resident Arlene Cole is the president.
Smith said there will be no program to honor lifetime achievement or community history next February. But he said there will be a program honoring the scholarship recipients.
“We’re just going to see how it goes and maybe this will be a permanent change,” Smith said. “We may throw in an honoree now and then, but if we can get this thing going and raise some money, it may be more focused on scholarships from now on. Everything is still up in the air now on exactly how we’ll do a ceremony, but one way or another scholarships will be delivered.”
It was Carter G. Woodson, a founder of the Association for the Study of African American History, who first came up with the idea of the celebration that became Black History Month, according to the Associated Press. Woodson, the son of freed Virginia slaves, who went on to earn a Ph.D in history from Harvard, originally came up with the idea of Negro History Week to encourage black Americans to become more interested in their own history and heritage. Woodson worried that black children were not being taught about their ancestors’ achievements in American schools in the early 1900s.
“If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated,” Woodson said.
Every president since Gerald R. Ford through Donald Trump has issued a statement honoring the spirit of Black History Month.
Ford first honored Black History Week in 1975, calling the recognition “most appropriate,” as the country developed “a healthy awareness on the part of all of us of achievements that have too long been obscured and unsung.” The next year Ford issued the first Black History Month commemoration, saying with the celebration “we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
President Jimmy Carter added in 1978 that the celebration “provides for all Americans a chance to rejoice and express pride in a heritage that adds so much to our way of life.” President Ronald Reagan said in 1981 that “understanding the history of Black Americans is a key to understanding the strength of our nation.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.