Celebrating Black History at IUPUI

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In IUPUI’s storied history, not everything is positive. Displacing many African Americans from their homes, many can look back and make assumptions about this school. Starting with their treatment of Black History Month, IUPUI has tried to rectify past transgressions.


Black History Month’s origins date back to September 1915, 50 years after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery. Historian Carter G. Woodson and Minister Jesse E. Moorland together founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), which is “an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by black Americans and other peoples of African decent.”

Now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), this group chose the second week in February to form a “national Negro history week” in 1926. This was the start of the formation of Black History Month.

This event inspired communities and schools nationwide, leading them to form local celebrations, establish history clubs and to host performances and lectures educating people on the history and achievements of African Americans.

Fast forward to the beginning of the 1960’s where major cities across the country began recognizing Negro History Week annually. Thanks to the civil rights movement and growing awareness of black identity, Negro History Week transformed into Black History Month, especially on college campuses, by the end of the 1960s.

Finally, in 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in order to, “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

IUPUI prides itself on being an ethnically diverse campus. One of the reasons it does so is not only for the amount of diversity throughout the students and staff, but also because they recognize cultural celebrations like Black History Month. Throughout the years IUPUI and IU affiliated campuses across the state, according to Campus Life, “host events, speakers and programs that highlight African American achievements in culture, art, history and leadership.”

Going back only a few years, IUPUI has hosted many events for Black History Month.

To start Black History Month, IUPUI holds their annual ‘Black History Month Kick-Off’ event. Hosted by the Multicultural Center, this event is celebrated at the beginning of each February (the 4th this year). Located in the Campus Center Atrium, it focuses on celebrating African American heritage, art, culture and history.

During the Kick-Off, IUPUI also hosts a performer(s) that are involved with African American culture. This years performers were the Oakdale Children's Choir from Chicago, IL.

In years past, IUPUI hosted the following events for Black History Month: ‘Student Activities Programming Board (SAPB) film showing of “Loving,”’ ‘LGBTQmmunity: Queer Black History’, ‘Young, Gifted and Black: Stop to Love’ and ‘African Studies Open House.’ They hosted award-winning actor, best-selling author and philanthropist Hill Harper for their Stewart Speaker Series. They also held “Critical Conversations on Black Homicide”which discussed violence in Indianapolis.

This year along with their ‘Black History Kick-Off’ event, IUPUI hosted “Young, Gifted and Black Presents: Love Being Woke: A Conversation About Black Love” on Feb. 5.

They will also be hosting “Catch a Fire! Honoring the Black Arts: An Evening of Spoken Word Poetry and Drumming.” Babalawo Awodele Ifasina will be on the drums and Lasana Kazembe will be doing spoken word poetry. This event is free and will be held on Feb. 20, located in University Library Room: Lilly Auditorium (Lower Level).

Founded in 2006, The Multicultural Center at IUPUI has hosted many of these events and shines a spotlight on the different cultures present on campus.

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