Honoring African American History Month
Created on February 25, 2013
“So let us honor those who came before by striving toward their example, and let us follow in their footsteps toward the better future that is ours to claim.”
President Barack Obama, 2013 National African American History Month Proclamation
As a Harvard-trained historian, Carter G. Woodson, like W. E. B. Du Bois before him, believed that truth could not be denied and that reason would prevail over prejudice. His hopes to raise awareness of African American's contributions to civilization was realized when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation's bicentennial. By this time, the entire nation had come to recognize the importance of Black history in the drama of the American story.
Among the early African American pioneers was Emmer M. Lancaster. Lancaster was born in Akron, Ohio in 1898 and headed the local NAACP chapter in the 1930s before moving to Washington, DC, and subsequently leading the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Division of Negro Affairs from 1940-1953. Lancaster instituted “business clinics” around the country to help African American business persons construct business plans and expand profitable enterprises that created jobs. Under the auspices of the Commerce Department, Lancaster organized several national conferences to help African American businesses in America. The conferences helped with strengthening business curriculums at historically black colleges and universities; communicating detailed information about government services available to them; assisting with submitting proposals for government contracts; and providing opportunities to meet and learn from the more successful black entrepreneurs in the country. Due to his work, many African Americans became entrepreneurs who might not have otherwise; many existing entrepreneurs became larger and more successful; and many African Americans became gainfully employed who may not have had opportunities otherwise.
In honor of African American History Month, the Minority Business Development Agency celebrates the contributions of Emmer M. Lancaster in furthering the entrepreneurial pursuits of African American business owners as well as the extraordinary contributions of African American pioneers throughout history and in current day.
Excerpt from an essay by Daryl Michael Scott, Howard University, for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History
Excerpt from The Sojourner’s Truth, Toledo’s African American Newspaper