Students at Gaston Middle School on Thursday kicked off Black History Month with a presentation that was at times solemn, but also educational, energetic and musical.
The school’s fourth annual Black History Month Assembly included historical reenactments of chapters from the civil rights movement, like the Little Rock Nine – nine black students who were the first to attend classes at the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., during the height of segregation.
During the presentation, some of the drinking fountains were marked “White Only” and “Colored Only” as an example of how racist policies that separated blacks and whites were once commonplace in the Deep South and many parts of the United States.
However, there was also time for joyous celebration, honoring the many contributions blacks have made to the nation throughout its history. The Gaston Choir sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” written by James Weldon Johnson, referred to by many as the “Black National Anthem.”
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There were tributes to rock ’n’ roll and hip hop music, plus the students sang “Ease on Down the Road,” the theme song to the Broadway play and film “The Wiz.”
Black History Month, which runs during the month of February, evolved from the efforts of historian Carter G. Woodson to raise awareness about the many positive impacts black people have made in the nation and world.
According to an essay written by Howard University professor Daryl Michael Scott on the africanamericanhistorymonth.gov website, Woodson’s organization the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926. The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, as President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history,” according to the site.