(February 24, 2013—Riverhead, NY) We owe the celebration of Black History Month, and more importantly, the study of black history, to Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Born to parents who were former slaves, he spent his childhood working in the Kentucky coal mines and enrolled in high school at age twenty. He graduated within two years and later went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. The scholar was disturbed to find in his studies that history books largely ignored the black American population-and, when blacks did figure into the picture, it was generally in ways that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time.
In 1926, he launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history. (by Elissa Haney from www.infoplease.com)
Riverhead High School held its annual Black History / Unity Celebration on February 25. RHS AP Michael Hugelmeyer was the Master of Ceremonies. The celebration opened with the presentation of the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance led by the NJROTC and the “Star Spangled Banner” sung by Amanda Osborne. Rev. Mary Cooper from the House of Praise gave the invocation.
The program featured presentations by students in the high school’s Council for Unity program, who read biographies of Black Americans like Garrett Morgan, Granville T. Woods, Vivian Thomas, all of whom made major contributions to medicine and industry, but went largely unrecognized until much later in history. In addition, music by the Aquebogue Elementary School, the Chamber Choir, the Jazz Band, and a solo by Taylor Burgess highlighted musical and historical contributions by Black Americans.
Student essay winners from the Pulaski Street School’s annual Garfield Langhorn Essay Contest read their writings by this RHS graduate, who died heroically in the Vietnam War by throwing his body over a grenade to save the lives of the other soldiers near him. PFC Garfield Langhorn was posthumously awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor.
African American Poet and Author Deborah La’Sassier recited selections from her poetry entitled “When Color Fades”. District employee Jenny Corbin recited works by Sojourner Truth and Maya Angelou. The First Baptist Church Praise Dance Group and the RHS Steppers also gave performances.
Each year a high school the students who organize this event also recognize the contributions of a faculty member, staff member, or administrator by presenting the person honored with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award. This year’s recipient was RHS Assistant Principal Eileen Manitta.
“I just love these Black History Month celebrations,” shared community member Robert Brown.” Mr. Brown participated in the high school celebration by reciting two of his own poems.