Black History Month at the Y

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
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. All Wednesday events are in the Riverfront Lobby at the SwedishAmerican Riverfront YMCA. The Dance Fitness Celebration is in the activity center at the SwedishAmerican Riverfront YMCA.
  • Wednesday, February 2 at 6pm : Live lyrical and jazz dance performance from local Fab Dance & Fitness Academy
  • Wednesday, February 9 at 6pm: Live performance from soulful singer Tina Renee
  • Wednesday, February 16 at 6pm: Freestyle dance performance by Terry Williams
  • Wednesday, February 23 at 6pm: Live performance from singer Cameron H. "Bon Cantina"
  • Friday, February 25- Healthy Living Black History Month Fitness Celebration
    • Open to Members/Guests, Childcare available
    • Doors open at 5:30, Event 6-8pm
    • Variety of fun dances
    • Live DJ 
    • Food trucks