JACKSON, Tenn. – March 3, 2009 – Studying the past is important so black Americans can know who they are in the present, Harrell Carter said Feb. 20 at Union University’s second annual Black History Month program.
Carter, president of the Jackson-Madison County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, addressed the program’s theme, “Why We Celebrate,” by examining the life of Carter G. Woodson, the founder of Black History Month.
“If there is no history, no legacy, no knowledge of self-who we are, where we have been -- then history can not reflect who you are now or where you are going,” Carter said. “Carter G. Woodson recognized the importance of remembering the African American history.”
Growing up in New Canton, Va., Woodson understood the importance of education, Carter said. Being raised by his parents, who were former slaves, made his aspirations for education difficult. But he finished high school in two years so he could work in the coal mines to support his family. Later he graduated from Harvard University with a doctorate in history.
Carter said Woodson was troubled by the lack of African-American historical knowledge, so he set out to do something about it. Woodson then initiated the Negro History Week, which later developed into Black History Month.
“What we enjoy today is a result of many people: black, Asian, white, Hispanic,” Carter said.
Without the history and legacy of these people, he said the United States could not have advanced to where it is as a nation.
“What gives me hope as a man of the NAACP…for people of all color… is that we will no longer need organizations like the NAACP,” Carter said.
Carter then challenged the students of Union University to, “serve others beyond self as Carter G. Woodson did.”
In addition to Carter’s speech, the program included musical performances by Union’s Mosaic Gospel Choir, Union alumnus Will Gray, pianist Patricia Porter and the Dugger Family Praise Team. The program also consisted of biographical sketches presented by Mosaic members and a poem of inspiration, “Our Deepest Fear” by Nelson Mandela, led by Renee Jones, Union’s assistant director of recruitment and information technology. Jacqueline Taylor, assistant dean of students and director of career services at Union, organized the event.
By Megan Thompson (’12)