African American Life and History Association Turns 100

ASNLH 1935 meeting; Woodson is seated on the far left, next to him is CPL librarian, Vivian G. Harsh (Source: George Cleveland Hall Branch Archives, Photo 044, Harsh Research Collection, Chicago Public Library)
ASNLH 1935 meeting; Woodson is seated on the far left, next to him is CPL librarian, Vivian G. Harsh (Source: George Cleveland Hall Branch Archives, Photo 044, Harsh Research Collection, Chicago Public Library)

When visiting Chicago for the Exposition of Negro Progress in summer 1915, Howard University educator Carter G. Woodson stayed at his usual place in town: the YMCA on 37th and Wabash in Chicago.

As was the custom in Bronzeville, Woodson met and interacted with a number of like-minded intellectuals and activists, all keen on celebrating black history and promoting education as a means to continued liberation.

On the evening of September 9, Woodson met in the Wabash Y’s basement with four other individuals: Dr. George Cleveland Hall, notable physician at Chicago’s Provident Hospital; W.B. Hartgrove, a teacher in the Washington, D.C. public schools; Alexander L. Jackson, the executive secretary of the Wabash YMCA; and James Stamps, a Yale University graduate student in economics.

Together they formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and so on September 9, 2015 we have cause to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of this monumental institution, now called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Not only did Woodson help found the organization, he returned to the YMCA just over a decade later to announce a plan to designate the second week of every February as “Negro History Week,” the precursor to what we now celebrate as African American History Month.

The Chicago branch of the ASALH is hosting a series of events to commemorate this centennial, including Librarian as Cultural Broker: Vivian Gordon Harsh and the Creation of an Archive on Thursday, September 10 at Carter G. Woodson Regional Library. I hope you’ll join us!

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