The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) celebrated its 88th annual Black History Luncheon Feb. 22 at the Marriot Wardman Park Hotel, Washington, D.C. The theme of this year’s celebration was “Civil Rights in America,” in honor of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This year’s luncheon brought out over 1,000 local and out-of-state guests including students, educators, and civic and religious leaders.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded ASALH in 1915 in response to the lack of information on the accomplishments of African Americans. Woodson established Negro History Week in 1926, which later became a month-long celebration of Black history.

University of Maryland Baltimore County President Freeman A. Hrabowski III was the luncheon keynote speaker and an honoree. Hrabowski was recently named by President Obama to chair the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Also on his extensive resume, Hrabowski was a child-leader in the Civil Rights Movement, co-founder of the Meyerhof Scholars program, an author, and holds honorary degrees from more than 20 institutions.

Ten Living Legacy honorees were recognized for significant contributions to African-American history through public or private institutions. The awardees are: Dr. Charlene M. Dukes, first female president of Prince George’s Community College; Hon. Patsy Jo Hilliard, educator, first African-American mayor of East Point, Ga.; Bell Hooks, social activist, feminist, author; Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III, educator, author, philanthropist; Velma Lois Jones, educator, civil rights activist; Wyman O. Jones Sr., educator; Joyce Ladner, educator; Dr. LaSalle D. Leffal Jr., medical educator, civic leader; Reginald L. Weaver, educational advocate, speaker; and Raymond A. Winbush, community and academic leader. The Council Award for Special Recognition was bestowed upon Professor David C. Driskell, an artist and a scholar.

“You don’t try to get one of these awards; you just do your work,” said Raymond A. Winbush, a Living Legacy awardee. “I was shocked because I consider this the highest honor I have ever gotten.”

Hon. Patsy Jo Hilliard said she was excited and honored to be a Living Legacy awardee. “The thing is it’s what you do, not so much being first that matters … especially, if you have love for your people and you want to see them grow in their environment.” Hilliard also noted that the battle for civil rights is still going on and “we have to keep on fighting.”

Guests also were able to talk with 45 authors during a book-signing event. The mistress of the ceremonies for the event was A’lelia Bundles.


Maria Adebola

Special to the AFRO