Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Observing Black History Month at Brandeis

Feb. 1, 2023

Dear Brandeis Community,

Black History Month is an important time to honor the heritage, resilience and contributions of African Americans, and is a reminder of the sacrifices of Black people in helping to build our nation. Current events continue to display in painful detail why we need to set aside a special time to recognize and appreciate the value of Black lives. The acts of violence and conflicts we witness remind our community that the work of repairing the world is ongoing.

The origins of Black History Month can be traced back to 1926, when historian Carter G. Woodson created "Negro History Week" to acknowledge Black contributions to history and culture. In 1970, students and educators at Kent State University began recognizing it for a month, launching a movement that spread to college campuses nationwide. Subsequently, Black History Month was first nationally recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976 during the celebration of the United States bicentennial. It is now recognized in countries globally, including Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Today, we must remain steadfast in fighting for racial justice and civil rights in the midst of contemporary struggles where voting rights and affirmative action legislation are under attack.

Observing Black History Month by educating one another about the entire Black experience is vital to ensuring that the progress we have made is not reversed.

At Brandeis, we take pride in the commitment to justice on which our university was founded, as well as our contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. In addition, the Brandeis University Archives holds a number of collections related to African and African American Studies that document Black experiences, including a recording of a speech given on campus by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1957, and an online exhibit titled Remembering Ford and Sydeman Halls. It also holds a collection of African-American Portraits by Carl Van Vechten, and a number of rare editions of works by such authors as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Building upon this scholarship, faculty from our African and African American Studies department continue to produce important works related to the history of the African diaspora. We look forward to an upcoming book from Professor Chad Williams titled "The Wounded World" about W.E.B. DuBois' efforts to write about Blacks' participation in World War I.

Join us for the following campus programs to elevate Black voices and experiences in community:

Black Homecoming Events with the Brandeis Black Student Organization

Heller Equity and Justice Series

  • The Power of Civic Engagement: The History and Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement
    With Brandeis alumnus Dr. Roy Deberry. 
    Feb. 16, 12:30-2:15 p.m., Heller Zinner Forum. Registration required.

Lyle Ashton Harris: Our first and last love

Rose Art Museum
Feb. 9-July 2, 2023

This exhibition explores Lyle Ashton Harris' critical examination of Black and queer identity while tracing central themes and formal approaches throughout his 35-year career. >Registration required.

As we celebrate Black History Month, let's remember the words of former Brandeis professor, lawyer, Episcopal priest and author Pauli Murray, "True community is based upon equality, mutuality and reciprocity. It affirms the richness of individual diversity as well as the common human ties that bind us together." Accordingly, let us recommit ourselves in working toward building true community.

In solidarity,

Elena Lewis
Director of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity — Heller School

Lee Bitsóí
Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion