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A common good for all: Black Heritage Week at UTSA

February 24, 2014

The first official UTSA celebration honoring African-American history and cultural contributions took place on February 14, 1977. UTSA President Flawn declared the week of February 13-19 to be a period of observance of the history and accomplishments of Black/African-Americans to American culture, contributing to “a common good for all.”

The week of February 13 featured several events organized by the Black Student Caucus under the theme “Black Achievements: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”  Highlights of the week included a fashion show at UTSA featuring members of the Spurs basketball team, readings of poetry selections, a fund-raising dance for the first annual G.J. Sutton Memorial Scholarship, a gallery display, and film showings.  A panel discussion took place on February 16, which included UTSA faculty Dr. Richard Gambitta (then Assistant Professor of Political Science) and Dr. John Hollomon (then Associate Professor of Early Childhood and Elementary Education).  The panelists discussed progress in areas such as education, legal matters, economics, politics, and science in the Black community.

Black Heritage Week brochure 1995, UTSA University Archives Vertical File, UA 1.03, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections

Black Heritage Week brochure 1995, UTSA University Archives Vertical File, UA 1.03, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections

The concept of a Black Heritage Week was celebrated as early as February 1925, when historian Carter G. Woodson announced “Negro History Week” to be the week in which both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass had been born.¹ In years to come Negro History Week, later referred to as Black Heritage Week, was celebrated across America in municipalities, organizations, and universities.  During the 1976 United States Bicentennial celebrations, President Gerald Ford declared the month of February to be Black History Month, a time to “honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every endeavor throughout our history.”

Celebrations for both Black Heritage Week and Black History Month have since taken place at UTSA annually, with many different people and organizations coming together to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black/African Americans as part of the American experience.

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