-A Black History Month message from our Executive Director, Cynthia Fraction
“This crusade is much more important than the anti-lynching movement, because there would be no lynching if it did not start in the schoolroom.”
— Carter G. Woodson
The story of Black History Month began in 1915–well after the Thirteen Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard-trained historian, and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). This organization was dedicated to researching and promoting the achievements of African Americans and other peoples of African descent. ASNLH, known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) began the first celebration of Negro History Week on February 7, 1926, which ultimately led to the celebration of African American life, accomplishments, and the success from historic struggles.
Woodson chose February and specifically the second week to celebrate Negro History Week because it aligned with two men whose birthdays fell on the 12th and 14th. These two men were President Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1865) and abolitionist Fredrick Douglass (February 14, 1890), both recognized and celebrated by African Americans at that time.
Woodson, however, had a deeper agenda for Negro History Week. Without openly admitting this, he aimed to expand the celebration of these two men by emphasizing the study of an entire race of changemakers. “More importantly, Woodson believed that history was made by the people, not simply or primarily by great men.”
Decades later, Mayors throughout the nation began issuing proclamations recognizing “Negro History Week”. By the late 1960s, due in part to the Civil Rights Movement and a growing sense of Black awareness, “Negro History Week” evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses nationwide.
In 1976 President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month; calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every endeavor throughout our history.”
During Black History Month, we honor the contributions and legacy of African Americans throughout the nation. We remember such pioneers as Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Elmore Nickleberry, Marcus Garvey, and Septima Clark to political leaders such as John Lewis, Shirley Chisolm, and President Barack and Michelle Obama.
I like remembering Sr. Thea Bowan, an African American woman who was very active in the Civil Rights Movement and the Catholic church. She was a native of Yazoo City, Mississippi, a tiny town in the Mississippi Delta, later making her home in the neighboring small city of Canton. She is most remembered for the work she did to encourage Catholic churches to be active in the fight for Civil Rights for all people, by traveling throughout the nation and sharing her message. Her message touched our founder Sr. Jean Thuerauf; who mentioned her in a speech at a local high school back in the 80s–which I was privileged to hear.
Today, we honor both Sr. Thea and Sr. Jean for the great legacy that we have before us: Cookie Cart! Sr. Jean and the many staff and Board members, past and present, have planted the seeds of success in the lives of many g people of color as Cookie Cart’s legacy continues to grow.
This year, the nation’s Black History Month theme is “Black Resistance”. The notion seeks to explore how “African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial profiling, and police killings,” since the nation’s earliest days.
What does this mean for Cookie Cart?
Cookie Cart has trained and served more than 10,000 youth over the years. Our mission is to teach life, leadership, and employment skills to teens of color through on-the-job and classroom experiences in nonprofit bakeries. We are working to change the narrative for young people. To address Black Resistance, we want to push up against oppression by celebrating our youths’ success, fostering critical relationships, and instilling excellence in them. And, from this work we seek to eradicate racism, address issues of equity, and be a strong contributor to building generational wealth and vibrant communities.
We are excited about the future and encourage everyone to partner with us as we continue to create this rich history.