The story of Black History Month began in 1915, half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. That September, the Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister, Jesse E. Moorland, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by black Americans and other peoples of African descent. This group sponsored a national Negro History week in 1926, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
The Old 96 District celebrates Black History Month to honor the memory of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays. Many historians believe that if it weren’t for Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, the world might never have known about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Greenwood, South Carolina native, Benjamin Mays, is credited with mentoring and inspiring the future civil rights leader during King’s years at Atlanta’s Morehouse College, where Mays served as president. The quieter Mays is surely not as famous as King, but Mays’ impact on American history reverberates more than 30 years after his death. At the Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, Historical Preservation Site in Greenwood, South Carolina, visitors get a look back to the time of Mays childhood. In addition to the cabin where Dr. Mays lived, the site also features a one-room schoolhouse like the one Mays attended and a museum with photographs, excerpts from his speeches and other artifacts. Mays was 22 years old when he finally graduated from high school and then attended Bates College in Maine. He was driven to prove to himself that he was the intellectual equal of other people. Mays went on to become a math teacher and pastor, and in 1934 was named Dean of Religion at Howard University. He accepted the presidency of Morehouse College, known today as Morehouse University, in 1940. The Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Historical Preservation Site in Greenwood is open Mondays-Tuesdays 9:00am-12:00 pm, Wednesdays-Friday 9:00am-2:30pm, Closed Saturday-Sunday (Closed Holidays) or by appointment. There is no admission fee.864-229-2960 or visit www.mayshousemuseum.org.