OC Recognizes Black History Awareness Month

February 5, 2016 9:38 pm Last Updated: February 10, 2016 6:57 pm

GOSHEN—The Orange County legislature voted on Feb. 4 to recognize February as Black History Awareness month, a tradition that started in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson to bring national attention to the contributions of African Americans in American history.

Every year the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) establishes a national theme for the month, and 2016 is “Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories,” which brings attention to the centennial celebration of the National Park Service and the more than twenty five sites on the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom that are part of America’s hallowed grounds, the resolution says.

Town of Warwick historian and former president of the New York African Studies Association, Dr. Richard Hull, said Orange County played a part in the underground railroad, and several hundred soldiers of African American descent from Orange County fought in the Civil War on the Union side. The NAACP was founded in 1909, and that same year a chapter was formed in Middletown.

“African-Americans played an integral role in the development of Orange County. They have served as leaders and renowned professionals in, among other things, business, music, dance and education,” said Hull, a Professor Emeritus of African history at New York University in a release. 

County Executive Steven Neuhaus said in press release that while he was proud to recognize Black History Awareness month, the contributions of African Americans should be celebrated throughout the year, not just in February.

Curlie Dillard, a county legislator representing the Town and City of Newburgh and the only African-American county legislator, agreed.

“It is imperative that we all take responsibility for our actions and teach spiritual, social, and civic leadership skills to the next generation,” he said. “While February brings some of these lessons to the forefront, we must teach all of our youth these lessons throughout the year.”

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