February is Black History Month in the United States. We've been recognizing the contributions of African Americans every February since 1976, when President Gerald Ford finally made official the movement spearheaded by historian Carter G. Woodson in the 1920s. But to understand how African-Americans made the YMCA into what it is today, you have to go back much further in time.
In 1853, a former slave and civic leader in Washington, D.C. named Anthony Bowen—who was also the first black employee of the US Patent Office—founded the first YMCA for African-Americans at a time when most organizations were deeply segregated. Over the next century, hundreds of African-American leaders walked through the doors of the “Twelfth Street YMCA.” It’s where Langston Hughes lived while working as a hotel busboy, where Thurgood Marshall planned his strategy for Brown vs. Board of Education and where NBA legend Elgin Baylor learned how to play basketball.
The president of Sears Roebuck and Company in Chicago, Julius Rosenwald, donated over $600,000 to build 26 YMCAs in 25 cities. By the mid-1920s, there were 28,000 African-American Y members at 51 city YMCAs and 128 college chapters.
In 1915, Carter G. Woodson, a University of Chicago alumnus, arrived in Chicago for to attend a national celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the state of Illinois. Woodson met at the Wabash YMCA in Chicago with a small group and formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). This began the foundation that would eventually create Black History Month.
In 1931, the YMCA's World Conference condemned racial discrimination and passed a resolution to end segregation, since "racial and cultural variations offer an opportunity for enrichment of culture through fellowship across racial and cultural lines."
This historical information is sourced from the YMCA of Metro Chicago
. To read more about the Milestones in History of African Americans in the YMCA, click the below link.
This month, we remember the historical leaders who helped make the Y what it is today, and we thank them. Below is a list of events taking place during February in honor of Black History Month. We invite you to join us.
- Friday, February 14 @6pm in the Riverfront Lobby - Singer: Tina Renee performs
- Sunday, February 16 from 1-4pm in the Log Lodge- Barbershop Talk.
- Receive a free haircut from local Barbers and engage in a round table discussion. Food and Prizes. For young men ages 13-19.
- Monday, February 17 - Teens Trip to DuSable Museum.
- A field trip for teens only. Permission slips will be available in the Teen Center.
- Tuesday, February 18 - Soul Food Night.
- Soul food will be served by teens in the Riverview Lobby during the evening
- Wednesday, February 19 @ 6pm in the Riverview Lobby - The Wright Way Dance Team performance
- Thursday, February 20 - 6PM in the Riverfront Lobby - Performer: RAJU
- Live performance by writer and recording artist RAJU (Joshua Patterson)
- Friday, February 21- Healthy Living Black History Month Fitness Celebration
- Open to Members/Guests
- Live DJ starting at 5:30PM
- Urban Line Dancing 6:00 - 6:30PM
- Cardio Hip Hop Mashup (Club Craze/Dance2Fit/MixxedFit) 6:30PM - 8:00PM
- Remembrance of Culture and Tradition (Dance demonstration)
- Soul food will be served