Editor’s note: The Union Daily Times will be running a series of stories about Black History Month throughout the month of February. If your church, civic group or other organization is planning any special activities or programs to commemorate and celebrate Black History Month, please contact The Union Daily Times at 864-427-1234, ext. 14 or email to UDTnews@civitasmedia.com.
UNION COUNTY — Music, poetry, skits, guest speakers and trivia questions are all part of the celebration of Black History Month by schools of the Union County School District.
Also known as African-American History Month, Black History Month originated in 1926 when historian G. Carter Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be Negro History Week. The week was selected because it was the week that both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born.
The holiday attracted an enthusiastic response that included the formation of black history clubs and increased interest in the history of African-Americans by educators and white progressives of the era. Its popularity continued to grow over the decades with the mayors of many American cities endorsing it as a holiday.
In February of 1969, the leaders of the Black United Students at Kent State University expanded what was by then known as Black History Week to Black History Month with the first celebration being held at the university in February of 1970. During the American Bicentennial in 1976, the federal government recognized the expansion of Black History Week into Black History Month.
Black History Month is also celebrated in Canada and the United Kingdom, the former celebrating it in February and the latter in October.
When Black History Month was recognized by the federal government in 1976, President Gerald R. Ford urged the American people to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
That opportunity is being seized by the schools of Union County School District who are holding an array of activities throughout this month highlighting and celebrating the contributions of African-Americans to America.
Buffalo Elementary School
Nicole Mincey, a first grade teacher at Buffalo Elementary School, said the Black History Month activities will include an assembly at 1:15 p.m. on Friday, February 22 which will involve performances from students of each grade.
“Each grade will demonstrate through skits, plays or music the contributions African-Americans have made to America,” Mincey said. “The theme will be ‘Rooted in the Past, Growing in the Future.’ Our fifth-graders will be doing a short play on the Tuskegee Airmen. The third grade will highlight the Gullah culture of South Carolina and the first grade will highlight the contributions by South Carolinians. The kindergarten will sing a song.”
“Their presentations will fit in with the curriculum they’ve been studying,” she said. “The third grade studied the Gullah culture and the fifth grade studied the Tuskegee Airmen.”
Mincey said that BES students are also being given a black history trivia question to answer each morning.
“Throughout the month there will be a trivia question about African-American history broadcast over the morning announcements,” Mincey said. “The winner will be announced with the afternoon announcements.”
Foster Park Elementary School
Music will be a major part of Foster Park Elementary School’s celebration of Black History Month on Friday, February 15 at 1 p.m.
“We’re scheduled to have the Sunrise Singers with Judge Wade Hampton,” Principal Barbara Palmer said. “Then we’re going to have our orchestra perform and some of our students will perform a ‘readers theater.’ The theme of our program will be ‘Walk In His Footsteps and Change The World.’”
Jonesville Elementary/Middle School
Music teacher Janae O’Shields said that Black History Month at Jonesville Elementary/Middle School will include a performance of songs including a personal favorite of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a PTO open house.
“We’re doing a musical tribute to Black History Month at the PTO open house on February 12 at 6:30 p.m.,” O’Shields said. “Our Middle School Chorus, Middle School Handbells, and Elementary Glee Club will be performing five musical selections. We have student speakers who will introduce each song and explain its historical significance. We will have a spiritual, a folk song, ragtime, and swing.”
O’Shields said the final song will be “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” which she said was King’s favorite song. She said that just moments before he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, King asked that the song be performed at an event he was scheduled to attend later that evening.
“He asked the musician who did the music for his assemblies to play that at that night’s meeting,” O’Shields said. “Those were literally his last words before he was shot.”
Principal Rene’ Pryor said the school is also hoping to have a Black History Month assembly for the entire student body this month, but that plans have not been finalized pending confirmation by the speaker sought for the event that she will be able to attend. Pryor declined to name the speaker the school is seeking, but did say that in the meantime teachers are conducting Black History Month activities in their classrooms.
If there is a Black History Month assembly, O’Shields said the musical performance that will be held at the open house will be repeated.
Music will also be used by students at Lockhart School to tell the history of African-Americans.
Principal Betsy Trakas said that the school’s eighth grade students will present a Black History Month program on Friday, February 22 at 1:45 p.m. The theme will be “African-American History Through Music.”
Monarch Elementary School
Principal Anita Maness said that Black History Month activities at Monarch Elementary School include classroom activities and a school wide observance led by the WMES news team.
Sims Middle School
A Union native turned movie director will be the guest speaker at Sims Middle School’s Black History Month celebration.
Eighth grade teacher Kathryn Sommer-Gough described the event as “a collection of student participation, teachers, the band, and the chorus. We’ll have different presentations like poetry, skits, and our guest speaker will be David Jones. He is a Union native, but he is also a filmmaker who directed a movie called ‘Don’t Blame The Lettuce.” He is a band manager now.”
Union County High School
A Union High School graduate who went onto play college football in Mississippi and at Clemson will be the featured speaker at Union County High School’s Black History Month celebration on Friday, February 22.
“Our students will perform, they will sing some songs, and we will have a step team,” Principal Floyd Lyles said. “We will have a guest speaker, Joe Woods, who graduated from Union High School in 1992. He played Division I football at the University of Mississippi and at Clemson. Our theme will him coming back is what it was like being a student and what made him successful in life.”
Lyles said that more activities may be added to the event, which will be held at 9:45 a.m., in the days ahead to the event, and if so they will be announced.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.