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February is Black History Month and the University of Delaware will celebrate critical contributions and activism of African Americans.
February is Black History Month and the University of Delaware will celebrate critical contributions and activism of African Americans.

Black History Month

Photo illustration by Jeffrey C. Chase

UD to celebrate critical contributions and activism of African Americans

Editor's note: This article was updated Feb.14, 2020.

What do a Grammy Award-winning rapper, a rare book of historic significance, and a birthday cake honoring Frederick Douglass have in common? They will all be on campus at the University of Delaware during Black History Month.

Throughout February and beyond, events, speakers and community service projects at UD will celebrate the critical contributions and activism of African Americans. This year’s observance is particularly poignant, as 2020 marks 150 years since the passing of the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted black men the right to vote. This year also marks 100 years since all U.S. women were granted the right to vote with the passage of the 19th amendment. The law came after a 72-year-long campaign for suffrage, born out of the abolitionist movement.

The following list of UD happenings commemorating these milestones and more will be updated throughout the month. Most are free and, unless otherwise noted, open to the wider community.

Friday, Feb. 14 — Douglass Day Transcribe-a-thon

A former slave and renowned abolitionist, Federick Douglass never knew his birth date, so he chose to celebrate every year on Feb. 14. The University will honor his legacy on this day by gathering from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in room 114 of Morris Library to transcribe the papers of Anna Julia Cooper, a visionary black feminist leader, educator, intellectual and activist who argued for the central place of black women in the battle for civil rights. It is free to participate, birthday cake and light refreshments will be served, and no prior transcribing experience is necessary. ID is necessary to enter, and RSVPs are encouraged.

Friday, Feb. 14-Friday, April 3 — Library Exhibition: “Patented Ingenuity: African American Innovators”

This free, one-case exhibition in Morris Library’s Information Room focuses on the achievements of African American inventors and innovators and the contributions they have made to the technological growth of our nation. It will be accessible to the public during the library’s open hours. ID is necessary to enter.

Friday, Feb. 14-Friday, April 10 — Library Exhibition: “Guenschel Case Exhibition: Recent Acquisitions”

This free, one-case exhibition will feature several recent acquisitions made by Morris Library’s Special Collections department. Among them will be an 1825 assessor’s book for the valuation of property, including information on more than 190 enslaved persons. Also on display will be items from a recent portfolio of photographs and articles concerning race as well as queer and transgender identity. The exhibit will be open to the public weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ID is necessary to enter. 

Monday, Feb. 24 — African American Read-In

Sponsored by UD’s Department of English and UD Library, Museums and Press, this event will feature two honored readers. First up is Celeste Doaks, editor and co-author of Not Without Our Laughter, a poetry collection that strives to provide “temporary shelter from the storm” of racial injustice. Also reading will be playwright Giletta “Gigi” McGraw, author of G-Ma: Stories and Photos of Black Grandmothers. Members of the community are also encouraged to read their own favorite African American authors or to share their own work with the group. The free event will be held in Morris Library’s Class of 1941 Lecture Room from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more, email professor Délice Williams at diwill@udel.edu

Monday, Feb. 24-Monday, March 23 — 34th Annual Women’s History Month Film Series

Weekly for one month, movies about extraordinary women who fought for our rights and pushed society to think bigger, change unfair norms, and overcome barriers will be screened in UD’s Kirkbride Lecture Hall. First up, on Feb. 24, will be Chisholm ‘72: Unbought and Unbossed, a movie about Shirley Chisholm, the first African American congresswoman and the first black woman to seek a major party’s nomination for the U.S. presidency. Following the film, guest speaker Cheryl Hicks from UD’s of Africana Studies and history departments, will present. The screenings, listed on this website, are free.

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Thursday, Feb. 27 — Black History Month Extravaganza - A Conversation with Common

UD's Center for Black Culture presents Common — an Academy, Golden Globe, Emmy and Grammy Award-winning artist, actor, and activist — who has used his art as a platform to change people’s perspectives, promote more diverse narratives and encourage people to action. Using education as a vehicle, Common created the Common Ground Foundation to empower high school students. In recent years, while deeply engaged in social justice work around mass incarceration, mental health, and voting, Common established a nonprofit, Imagine Justice, dedicated to leveraging art to advocate for black communities around the country.

In his latest book, Let Love Have the Last Word, Common shares his unique and personal stories of the people and experiences that have led to a greater understanding of love and all it has to offer. Common will discuss how love for self and others can serve as a foundation for healing and well-being. Books will be available for purchase. 

Ticket Information - UD Students/Faculty/Staff: One free admission with online RSVP to http://bit.ly/bhme2020. Purchase additional tickets ($10) at the Center for Black Culture, Feb. 10-17.

Ticket Information - General Public: If any tickets remain, they will cost $10 and be available beginning on Feb. 18 at www.bluehens.com/tickets (Limit two).

The sponsors of the event are the Center for Black Culture, Cultural Programming Advisory Board, Black Student Union, Student Wellness and Health Promotion, University Student Centers, Residence Life and Housing, Counseling Center and Student Development, and Vice Provost for Diversity.

For more information, visit www.udel.edu/cbc.

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Friday, Feb. 28 — Gospelrama

The Cultural Programming Advisory Board, a student-run organization, will present Gospelrama, a night of healing and wellness through worship, at 7 p.m. in Mitchell Hall. Headlining will be Le’Andria Johnson, a gospel musician, songwriter, and winner of the BET competition show Sunday Best. Recently, she has been featured on Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers hit single Deliver Me (This is My Exodus). Also performing at the event will be UD’s own Gospel Choir along with other special guests. Tickets are free to UD students (limit two) beginning Monday, Feb. 10. Tickets for UD faculty and staff as well as the general public will be $10 each (limit two) beginning Monday, Feb. 17. They can be purchased at UD box offices and at http://www.bluehens.com/tickets.

Saturday, Feb. 29 — MLK Day of Service

The national day of service honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., is held in January. UD celebrates again in February because more students are on campus for the spring semester, which begins Monday, Feb. 10. This year's theme is "Search for the Truth," pulled from King's 1968 The Other America speech. Participants, who will meet at Clayton Hall at 10 a.m., will listen to keynote speaker Kendell Daughtry, a UD doctoral student who has studied social attitudes that contribute to the continuation of racism in America. Then, they will be bussed to various nonprofit organizations in the community to complete a variety of service projects, with transportation back to campus scheduled for 4 p.m. Registration for the day of service, open to all UD students, is now open.

Tuesday, March 3 — Redding Lecture: The Defamation Experience

At 5:30 p.m. in Mitchell Hall, the Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity will present a free, three-phase interactive diversity program featuring a riveting courtroom drama that explores the highly charged issues of race, class, religion, gender, and the law. RSVP at this website.

Sunday, March 8 — Sit-In and Study

In honor of the Little Rock Nine, the Sit-In and Study program seeks to create a culture of study and community to improve the academic performance of African American and Latinx students. Spaces are available between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. in Purnell Hall, rooms 116 and 118, for group and quiet study. Dinner at the Center for Black Culture follows for students that pre-register and study for a minimum of two-and-a-half hours. Sign up at this website

Thursday, March 12 — Black Lives Matter: Art and Activism

Social activist Patrisse Cullors, co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter, will discuss "Art and Activism" in a public lecture scheduled at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, March 12, in the Trabant University Center Theater. Hosted by UD's Department of Africana Studies, Cullors will talk about her work on the frontlines of criminal justice reform for the last 20 years. The author of When They Call You a Terrorist, she is the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network and founder of the Los Angeles-based grassroots organization Dignity and Power Now. She is currently leading Reform LA Jails, a March 2020 ballot initiative.

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