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Oklahoma State University

Celebrate Black History Month

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The First Black Heritage Week was held in 1968 and honored Dr. Melvin B. Tolson Sr., the Langston poet and educator. The purpose of the week was to celebrate the cultural heritage of black people. A popular campus organization was the Burnin’ Black chorus (pictured), which still performs songs ranging from spiritual to rock.


Guest #iamokstate blog, written by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.


You’ve heard about Black History Month since you were in elementary school, but do you know how this month was created?

Gather round, Cowboys. You’re going to learn something today.

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History of Black History Month

This special month was created in 1926 by scholar Carter G. Woodson and originally began as “Negro History Week,” to bring attention to African American history Woodson felt was absent in education.

The second week in February was chosen because it included the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln on February 12th, Frederick Douglas on February 14th and the ratification of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which removed race as a qualification for voting. It was during the 1960s that “Negro History Week” evolved into a month, which was largely due to the celebrations and support from universities and colleges around the country.

In 1976, on the 50th anniversary of “Negro History Week”, President Gerald Ford proclaimed February Black History Month and a national observance. Every U.S. President since has officially recognized February as Black History Month.

Excited Meryl Streep at awards ceremony

A common misconception about Black History Month is that it is specifically for black people and their history. But Black History Month offers opportunities for everyone because black history is truly American History.

Since colleges and universities were some of the first to celebrate Black History Month, we wanted to take this opportunity to encourage #okstate students to participate in BHM events and connect with others.

The spring semester offers a great opportunity to engage with diverse students and programs. However, it can be difficult understanding how to navigate different cultures and individuals respectfully.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Be open

Having a cultural or diverse experience can be intimidating. You may feel like a fish out of water. It’s okay, lean in to those uncomfortable feelings instead of choosing not to engage. The more you do it the less uncomfortable you will be. Keep an open heart and mind and you will do great.


This month will feature awesome programming from many different parts of campus. There is sure to be something happening on campus this month to pique your interest. You can find a list of Black History Month events here. Be willing to attend some of those programs and have real interactions with different people. You’re likely to connect with some amazing members of the Cowboy family.

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Think Before You Speak

Nobody wants to be in the position where they have offended someone’s culture or heritage. Often times people can save themselves with the simple rule, think before you speak.

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Checking Biases, Prejudice, and Stereotypes

Unlearning things is just as hard if not harder than actually learning things. However, checking biases, prejudices and stereotypes is where the unlearning begins.

For example if you are asking a diverse friend a particular question that you are unsure about. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Why am I asking them this?
  • Do I ask this of my other friends?
  • What do I really want to know from this question?

By starting with these tips, you have an opportunity to grow and engage from a much more culturally sensitive place.

We are so excited to see you at the Black History Month events on campus, Cowboys! Go Pokes!

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