NEW ORLEANS — Angela Davis, Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, Madam C.J. Walker, Malcolm X, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisholm and Thurgood Marshall: These are the names of some of the more prominently known pioneers of American freedom and innovation, those whose contributions, creativity and sacrifice are looked upon and celebrated every year during Black History Month. And that month is now.
Founded as Negro History Week by African-American scholar and historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926, the annual observance started as just that: a week. In 1976, however, that week was expanded to a month-long celebration set in February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Since its inception, Black History Month has been a time of discovery, learning and celebration, showcasing the many accomplishments and contributions of Black Americans to American society, history, industry and the arts – and lifting up the voices of those who have often gone unheard. Those efforts continue in even greater volume to this day, and in the city of New Orleans.
From March 5-7, the Historic New Orleans Collection – a museum, research center and publisher founded in 1966 and dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South – will host its 25th Williams Research Center Symposium, this year, celebrating the voices of Black activists from the Reconstruction Era to present day.
Using archival research and three new HNOC publications as source material, “Recovered Voices: Black Activism in New Orleans from Reconstruction to the Present Day”, this year’s symposium will explore the origins and legacies of Black activism in the Crescent City. The three books featured during the symposium are: “Afro-Creole Poetry in French from Louisiana’s Radical Civil War–Era Newspapers,” “Monumental: Oscar Dunn and His Radical Fight in Reconstruction Louisiana,” and “Economy Hall: The Hidden History of a Free Black Brotherhood.”
The voices in the books include journalists, poets, politicians, educators and civil rights champions, as they worked in classrooms, newsrooms and in public spaces, in both English and French.
This year’s symposium will be held virtually. All sessions will be conducted on Zoom. Tickets for the virtual symposium are available online at www.hnoc.org.