Next week Dr. Edward W. Crosby, KSU Professor Emeritus is to be memorialized. The question is why? What did he do that was noteworthy? Here are just a few of his notable accomplishments. First of all he became a Black Studies pioneer when he established the Institute for African American Affairs, at Kent State, in 1969. Secondly, he became an edtech innovator when he used videotaped lectures to overcome budgetary restrictions imposed by Kent State administrators. He continued in that vein when he donated a PC to the Department of Pan-African Studies and placed it on Gladys Bozeman’s desk back in the early 80’s. Unfortunately, he’s rarely given credit for his most well known contribution to Black life and culture, Black History Month.
Yes, Carter G. Woodson did establish Negro History Week as a thing, way back in the 1920’s. However, Negro History Week was never implemented outside of the segregated Colored Schools and even then it was not widely implemented in HBCU’s. Black History Month was another animal, all together. It began on the predominantly White college campus of Kent State and spread to other colleges. From there Black History Days/Weeks, etc. were established in integrated secondary schools, where it met with extreme opposition from White students and parents.
Negro History Week never engendered this kind of visceral reaction from White folks, because it was limited to Colored Schools, churches and community events. Negro History Week was decidedly focused on the history of the American Negro, while Black History Month has had more of a Pan-African stance. Today, Black History Month is not just celebrated in the U.S., it’s celebrated all over the world in places as diverse as the U.K. and Japan.
Like Dr. Woodson, Dr. Crosby used Black History Month as means to an end, not an end, in and of itself. This may, in part, explain why he’s not widely known as “The Father of Black History Month.”