by Brian Burns and Judd Proctor
The History of Black History Month
Black History Month is a remembrance of significant people and events in the history of African heritage. It is celebrated in the United States in February.
The remembrance was originally started by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a leading historian who founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Woodson felt the contributions of Black Americans were overlooked or misrepresented, so he began lobbying for Negro History Week. It began in 1926.
Woodson selected the second week in February for the remembrance, the same week that Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas were born – since he believed they had greatly influenced the lives of Black Americans.
In 1976, Woodson’s organization successfully lobbied for the month-long observance in February.
President Gerald R. Ford was the first president to officially recognize Black History Month, calling on the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Tony Washington and The Dynamic Superiors
The Dynamic Superiors were a Washington, D.C. soulful, black male vocal group that signed with Motown in 1974. Most of their early material was produced by the talented duo, Ashford & Simpson.
The Dynamic Superiors had performed together since their junior high school days. Tony Washington led the group with his flamboyant, falsetto voice. He was also an unabashed gay man, both on- and off-stage, and occasionally did concerts in drag. Sometimes he would turn lyrics around on stage. When the group sang, “Me and Mrs. Jones,” Tony would sing, “Me and Mr. Jones.” This was several years before high-profile Sylvester hit it big.
Although the Dynamic Superiors didn’t experience mainstream success, they were happy to be doing what they enjoyed. They made their last recording together in 1980.
Gun Toting, Cigar Smoking, Mary Fields
Born a slave in Hickman County, Tennessee, in the 1830s, Mary Fields earned her freedom in 1865. Six feet tall, with a feisty attitude that often led to fist fights, she made her mark in the American Wild West.
Finding her way to Cascade County, Montana, Fields did men’s work at the St. Peter’s Mission. But because she smoked, drank and swore, she didn’t last long there.
In 1895, Fields was hired as a mail carrier, since she was the fastest applicant to hitch a team of six horses. Carrying the mail with horses and a mule named Moses – and reliably at that – she earned the nickname, “Stagecoach Mary.”
Never married, Fields wore men’s shirts and jackets. Yet she earned a respectable reputation as the first African American woman to work for the U.S. Postal Service.