February is Black History Month in the United States. The origins of this monthly celebration and commemoration lie with Dr. Carter G. Woodson. As explained on the website of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, in 1915 Dr. Woodson “traveled from Washington, D.C. to participate in a national celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the state of Illinois. Thousands of African Americans travelled from across the country to see exhibits highlighting the progress their people had made since the destruction of slavery… Despite being held at the Coliseum, the site of the 1912 Republican convention, an overflow crowd of six to twelve thousand waited outside for their turn to view the exhibits. Inspired by the three-week celebration, Woodson decided to form an organization to promote the scientific study of black life and history ,,, and formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH).” After decades of celebrating with a week of exhibits and events every February, “In 1976, fifty years after the first celebration, the Association used its influence to institutionalize the shifts from a week to a month and from Negro history to black history.”
The FAU Libraries, both at the Wimberly Library in Boca Raton and the MacArthur Library in Jupiter, have mounted a multi-media exhibit celebrating the contributions of just a small selection of the “Ordinary and Extraordinary Americans” who have contributed so much to the history and culture of the United States.
The title of the exhibit was inspired by a quotation from the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, who said, “A change is brought about because ordinary people do extraordinary things.” We selected thirty-two of these extraordinary African-Americans to feature in this year’s exhibit, from the past and the present and from all walks of life, ranging from President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama,
to celebrated artists and writers, like Faith Ringgold, James Baldwin, and Octavia Butler
to politicians, past and present, such as John Lewis, Shirley Chisholm, and Kamala Harris
to some of the legends of the Civil Rights movement like Jesse Jackson and Julian Bond
to sports icons and leaders like Muhmmad Ali, Colin Kaepernick, and Serena Williams
to scientists and explorers like Neil deGrasse Tyson and astronaut Mae Jemison
to musical geniuses like Jimi Hendrix, Marian Anderson, Beyoncé, and Don Shirley.
To see all the featured people, come by and experience the exhibit featuring items from our collections, look at the slideshow, listen to music or the speech of Julian Bond at the listening station, or pick up a button featuring one of your personal heroes. Check out their inspiring words and “make a difference about something other than yourselves.”