Black History Month

A History Of Abolition

Feb 26, 2016

  In celebration of Black History Month there is a new book by a University of Massachusetts professor that overturns long-held assumptions about the abolitionist movement. The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition is by Manisha Sinha, published by Yale University Press.

Sinha shows that rather than being composed of white, bourgeois, racially paternalistic reformers, abolitionism was a radical movement of women and men, black and white, slave and free who supported feminism, labor rights and utopian socialism.

Relying on extensive archival research and newly discovered materials, The Slave’s Cause explores the influence on abolition of the Haitian Revolution and slave resistance.

  Ally Sheedy, a highly accomplished actress perhaps best known for her roles in The Breakfast Club, War Games and Short Circuit, is directing an amazing one-woman performance based on the 2015 award winning memoir, Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery.

The performance will take place at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 13th at M.C. Smith Intermediate School in Hudson, NY. It will feature the Hudson High School Choir, who will open the event by performing songs from the Civil Rights era.

The story recounts the experiences of a young Lowery growing up in Selma, Alabama during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Lowery was jailed nine times before her 15th birthday as a result of her participation in marches for voting rights. The show stars actress Damaras Obi. Damaras and Ally Sheedy join us in studio this morning and Lynda Blackmon Lowery joins us via phone from NYC.

At the Martin Luther King Memorial in Albany: Congressman Paul Tonko, Mayor Kathy Sheehan and County Executive Dan McCoy. (January 2014)
WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

Observed nationwide since 1976,  Black History Month is an annual observance across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.  It descended from “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of  historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans.

A large crowd displays the Black Flag on steps of Springfield City Hall

Black History Month began in Springfield, Massachusetts this week with an annual flag-raising ceremony at City Hall.

A large diverse audience of children from a local elementary school, a Head Start classroom, and a youth job corps program, were encouraged by keynote speaker Dr. Alonzo Sheffield, 95, a retired physician, to learn their history.

" I think it will help them in their studies and appreciate what the situation is today, " he said.


An annual Black History Month observance in Springfield, Massachusetts was dedicated this year to the woman known as the city’s “mother of civil rights” who died late last year at the age of 100.

    This was the 29th annual ceremony to raise the Black American Heritage Flag over Springfield City Hall. It was the first one held without Ruth Loving.  The local activist for civil rights, healthcare for the poor, and libraries died last November.

All month we've been learning about the NEH film series, Created Equal. One of those films, The Abolitionists tells the story of the struggle to end slavery. This week, we'll learn how this struggle played out locally and why it still matters today.

Mary Liz Stewart is the Executive Director of the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region and she joins us to tell us more.

We are very happy to continue our weekly feature Ideas Matter: Checking in with the Public Humanities. It is our chance to check in with the Humanities Councils throughout our 7-State area to discuss important ideas and why they do indeed matter.


Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick marked Black History Month with a visit to an elementary school in Springfield today.   The governor highlighted a remarkable part of the city’s past.

Governor Patrick read a book to a group of about 50 third grade students at the William DeBerry Elementary school.

At the Martin Luther King Memorial in Albany: Congressman Paul Tonko, Mayor Kathy Sheehan and County Executive Dan McCoy. (January 2014)
WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

Black History Month is here, with a full calendar of events throughout February. Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas  previews some of the first in the region.

At this hour in Albany at the County Office Building, the start of African American History Month is being promoted as "an important time to look back and reflect on the advancements made in equality here in Albany County as well as the nation as a whole."