Last Saturday I spent time with the most important African American organization that you may have never heard of. I’d love for you to know more about them.
One of my company’s clients is The HISTORY Channel. We’ve partnered with HISTORY for years, and are helping them re-make the iconic series, ROOTS.
This project is a major undertaking. We’re working with LeVar Burton – the original Kunta Kinte, as well the trailblazer behind Reading Rainbow and Star Trek’s Geordi La Forge – Will Packer, and a stellar cast and crew including Forrest Whitaker, Anika Noni Rose and Laurence Fishburne. HISTORY is pulling out all the stops to breathe life into ROOTS yet again, and make the series relevant for a new generation of viewers. The new ROOTS will be phenomenal.
Here’s where the organization-you-may-have-never-heard-of comes in. For the last 100 years, the caretakers of Black history in this country have been ASALH: the Association of the Study of African American Life and History.
ASALH was founded by the legendary educator, historian and activist Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Woodson, and ASALH, in turn founded Black History Month. BHM began as Negro History Week in February 1926 and grew from there. You can read more about the story of Black History Month here.
In many ways, ASALH are still the caretakers of Black history in our country. They meet annually to discuss and debate the state of our history. Local chapters then gather throughout the year – not just academics, but archivists, teachers, civic leaders, and clergy. They grapple with how some of our country’s most important moments are remembered. What we can learn from our past. How Black history impacts the Black present – and the broader American present – every day.
The outgoing president, Dr. Daryl Michael Scott, gave a stemwinder of a speech on the future of the organization after LeVar’s presentation. One of Daryl’s points that stuck with me: we have to ensure that science and technology education for black children does not supplant the humanities. We cannot simply be technologists, implementers; history, literature, sociology, anthropology, classics still matter. I’ve been thinking about Daryl’s remarks since the speech, and I agree with him completely. It seems to me: The folks who run the world tend to know its story, and how to tell it — not just how and why it spins.
We’re going to be doing more with ASALH related to ROOTS in the coming year. The incoming president, Dr. Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, is another giant in the field, and the organization is very much on the rise. I’m excited to go deeper with ASALH; I hope you’ll check them out, and get involved in their work of telling the Black, and the American, story.