Black History Month | St. Louis Public Radio

Black History Month

Erise Williams, wearing a gray and white striped shirt, stands by the window, talking with guests at Rustin's Place, a drop-in center  serving mostly young, black, gay men. January 2018
Erise Williams

Black History Month is a time to spotlight African-Americans who made a difference. But many people don’t know that prominent African-Americans were part of the LGBTQ community.

Among them was Bayard Rustin, an openly gay black man who worked side-by-side with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The civil rights strategist who died in 1987 is honored every day at a little storefront in St. Louis’ Vandeventer neighborhood, called Rustin’s Place. It’s a drop-in center that largely serves LGBTQ people, particularly gay African-American men.

Writer Kaitlyn Greenidge will talk about her novel at St. Louis Public Library headquarters at 7 p.m. on February 6.
Provided / St. Louis County Public Library

The idea of setting a special time for Americans to learn about black history began in 1926 from educator Carter G. Woodson. Concerned about lack of awareness about accomplishments of African-Americans, Woodson, the son of former slaves, set aside a week for students to learn about people who received scant attention in history books. Since 1976, every U.S. president has designated February as Black History Month. Other countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history.

Ava channels Mary Eliza Mahoney , the country's first black professional nurse.
Chauncia Boyd Rogers

Oprah Winfrey, Zora Neale Hurston and Ida B. Wells, are just some of the figures 5-year-old Ava Noelle Rogers has embodied during Black History Month.

The performing and visual arts can bring history to life. During Black History Month, St. Louis is bursting with opportunities to celebrate and learn through movement, music, drama, film, painting and sculpture. (See list, below.)

Salon 53

Perseverance and triumph in St. Louis history will be explored in a new exhibition, opening today at Salon 53, a private art gallery in north St. Louis.

Christ Church Cathedral To Pay Tribute To Rosa Parks

Feb 14, 2014
via Wikimedia Commons/Ebony Magazine

In celebration of Black History Month, Christ Church Cathedral is holding a concert Sunday honoring Rosa Parks. The concert will feature arrangements of spirituals and “Hymn for Rosa,” a work written by Christ Church Cathedral organist and choirmaster William “Pat” Partridge after Rosa Parks died.

According to Partridge, her death reminded him of his childhood in segregated Virginia and her perseverance to end segregation.

Mustard Seed Theater

Alicia Reve' Like plays Nella, a bright patch in an Alabama family whose quilts tell stories of segregation and the civil rights movement.

Last February, Alicia Reve' Like portrayed a motel maid who whooped up on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Black Rep’s “The Mountaintop,” the story of King’s last hours.

Provided by Afriky Lolo

St. Louisans can explore the area's broad past including black history through larger-than-life puppets, Gee’s Bend, Ala., quilters and exhibits by members of the Alliance of Black Art Galleries.

The recently formed Alliance of Black Art Galleries will debut its first collaborative exhibit in February in connection with St. Louis’ 250th birthday celebration.

Lambert Airport honors black pilot pioneers

Feb 16, 2012
(Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public)

Lambert Airport is honoring African American pilots who broke color barriers in the sky with a re-dedication of its mural “Black Americans in Flight.”

Solomon Thurman, one of the mural's co-artists, said the five-panel mural depicts the aviation achievements of African Americans from WWI to the NASA shuttle mission. 

"St. Louis is the only place where you can see an encapsulated story of the Tuskegee Airmen," he said. "There are many Tuskegee paintings around the country and perhaps around the world, but none tell the cohesive story."

Do we need a black history month? Filmmaker says 'no'

Feb 4, 2012

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 4, 2012 - As you turn your 2012 calendar to February, ask yourself -- should we keep Black History Month? African American filmmaker, Shukree Hassan Tilghman, 29 has an opinion and set out cross-country on a campaign to end the month-long celebration.

On Feb. 2, Tilghman's documentary "More Than a Month" will be shown at 7 p.m. at the Missouri History Museum followed by a discussion with the filmmaker. Tilghman ventured out during the coldest, shortest month of the year wearing a sandwich board and asking for signatures to end the observance of Black History Month.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 31, 2012 - Black History Month has been observed annually in the United States and Canada since 1976. For some, February is a time to celebrate accomplishments of people who were ignored in the history books of previous generations. Others, however, question whether the time for this form of separate recognition is over. The Beacon used the Public Insight Network to ask what Black History Month means in 2012.