Culture and History
The Black Cultural Center has sought to educate the campus and broader community on African American and African culture.
Student Corey Prince described this cultural education mission in October 1989:
“[The Black Cultural Center is] a place we hope black students will go to become culturally aware of our heritage and we hope white students and students of other races will come, too, to study, to attend programs, and to see black-oriented art and displays about famous blacks leaders and others who are making contributions.” Quoted in News and Information Services, “Black Cultural Center established at Tennessee Tech,” October 10, 1989, Communications and Marketing records, box 2, Black Cultural Center folder.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tributes
Some of the Black Cultural Center's longest-standing events include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. tributes and Black History Month programming. In organizing such events, the Black Cultural Center built on the legacy of the Black Student Organization and historically Black greek organizations on campus, which planned Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative events and Black History Month programming decades before the founding of the Center.
Black History Month
The Black Cultural Center's Black History Month celebrations have their roots in Carter G. Woodson's advocacy for the study of Black culture and history in the United States. In 1915, African Americans held a three-week-long exhibition of Black history in Washington, D.C., in recognition of the 50th year anniversary of the end of the Civil War and emancipation. Woodson contributed a display at the event and was motivated to create the Association of the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) as a result of his participation. Woodson's fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, created and publicized the first Negro History and Literature Week in 1924 at Woodson's request. The ASNLH took over the organizing of Negro History Week for February 1926. Beginning with 1926, the Association publicized an annual theme that local organizations took up to create their own Negro History Week events.
The week grew into a month-long event at different times in different locations. African Americans started the month-long celebration in West Virginia in the 1940s. Black student organizations at universities began instituting Black History Month on campuses in the 1960s. The ASNLH formally adopted Black History Month in 1976.
Source: Daryl Michael Scott, "Origins of Black History Month," Association for the Study of African American Life and History, 2011, https://asalh.org/about-us/origins-of-black-history-month/
Black Cultural Center Director Mayme Martin described the educational purpose of the month in a 1991 news release on Black History Month at Tennessee Tech:
"We want all the students at the university to gain a better understanding of blacks in this country... We want to help students look toward black awareness in the future. We need to look where we came from to understand where we're going." Quoted in News and Information Services, "Lectures, discussions, and storytelling to highlight Black History Month at Tennessee Tech," 1991 January 15, Communications and Marketing records, box 2, Black History Month folder.
Black History & Culture All Year Long
Like the founders of Black History Month, the Black Cultural Center did not see the need for awareness of Black culture and history as limited to one month. The Center held celebrations of Black art, literature, music, and history throughout the year.