February 1 marks the beginning of Black History Month, an annual celebration of the history and achievements of African Americans in the U.S.
Black History Month evolved from the 1926 creation of Negro History Week. Historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History declared the observance for the second week of February due to the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas.
It wasn't until 1970 that Black History Month was first celebrated by leaders of the Black United States at Kent State University. However, the month was not officially recognized by the government until six years later by President Gerald Ford.
Earlier this month Governor John Bel Edwards announced a proclamation declaring February 2017 as Black History Month in the state of Louisiana.
“Black History Month is an annual opportunity to recognize the central role of African Americans in our state’s economic, cultural, social and political history,” Edwards said. “We take this time to celebrate and learn more about the many achievements and contributions of those who have fought for justice, equality and freedom to make Louisiana a better place for everyone to call home.”
In honor of the significance of February, the River Road African American Museum (RRAAM) in Donaldsonville is hosting a book tour down-the-bayou on Feb. 18.
"Because the museum is an educational institution about the history in the rural communities in sugar cane country, we felt that this would be an enlightening way to educate the public about this history," said RRAAM Director Kathe Hambrick. "I decided that a tour with the author on a chartered bus would be an interesting way to teach this history."
The day-long book tour is hosted by John DeSantis, author of "The Thibodaux Massacre: Racial Violence and the 1887 Sugar Cane Labor Strike." The critically acclaimed book is about the story of Jack Conrad, a former Lafourche Parish slave who joined the Army during the Civil War and was wounded in the 1887 tri-parish strike, known as the Thibodaux Massacre, that killed his son.
“Much of this hurtful history until now has been unknown,” DeSantis said. “This is a story of empowerment, because twenty five years after emancipation these courageous people dared standing up to an oppressive culture of white supremacy.”
The tour will begin at the RRAAM at 10 a.m. and will continue through Bayou Lafourche to Thibodaux then back to Donaldsonville at 3 p.m. The event is limited to 55 people. Ticket price is $75 and includes a signed copy of the book, lunch, a tour of the museum and a private bus tour narrated by DeSantis.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, contact Hambrick at (225) 206-1225.