Arkansas Psychological Association (ArPA) Celebrates Black History Month

Patricia L. Griffen, PhD, Former President of ArPA

The initial national recognition of the history of black people in America was founded by Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1926 as “Negro History Week.” Carter G. Woodson was the son of a slave, born in New Canton, Virginia on December 19, 1875. He enrolled in high school at age 20 and studied at Berea College, the University of Chicago, the Sorbonne, and completed a Ph.D. in 1912 from Harvard University. February was chosen as the month for this celebration because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12th and of Frederick Douglas on February 14th. The Black community had celebrated these dates together since the late 19th century.

Carter G. Woodson, an educator, historian and author, decided that people needed to know about Black people in America. He is called the “Father of Black History.” He thought it was important to know, honor, and celebrate the history of what Black people had done in the past and currently. Woodson contended that this teaching was essential to ensure the physical and intellectual survival of the race within the broader society:

“If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated. The American Indian left no continuous record. He did not appreciate the value of tradition; and where is he today? The Hebrew keenly appreciated the value of tradition, as is attested by the Bible itself. In spite of world persecution, therefore, he is a great factor in our civilization.”

In keeping with the belief and traditions of Dr. Woodson, it is important to know, honor and celebrate the history of Black Americans and their contributions to this country. Sadly, very little is known about the history of Black Americans by the masses. For that reason, the Arkansas Psychological Association (ArPA) pauses in 2017 to celebrate the history of a people who contributed significantly to the foundation of this nation.

Each year the Association for the Study of African American Life and History chooses a theme. The theme for 2017 is, “The Crisis in Black Education.”

How timely, how fitting for this to be the 2017 theme in light of the current state of public education across the country and especially in Little Rock, Arkansas, the home of the Crisis of 1957, the home of the Little Rock Nine. 2017 marks the 60th anniversary of the Integration of Central High School by nine very brave and courageous young people ranging in age from 14-17.

Because of the relevance and timeliness of this theme, it is important to present the ASALH’s 2017 executive summary in its entirety, as follows:

The Crisis in Black Education

Executive Summary 2017

The theme for 2017 focuses on the crucial role of education in the history of African Americans.

ASALH’S founder Carter G. Woodson once wrote that “if you teach the Negro that he has accomplished as much good as any other race he will aspire to equality and justice without regard to race.” Woodson understood well the implications associated with the denial of access to knowledge, and he called attention to the crisis that resulted from persistently imposed racial barriers to equal education. The crisis in black education first began in the days of slavery when it was unlawful for slaves to learn to read and write. In pre-Civil War northern cities, free blacks were forced as children to walk long distances past white schools on their way to the one school relegated solely to them. Whether by laws, policies, or practices, racially separated schools remained the norm in America from the late nineteenth century well into our own time.

Throughout the last quarter of the twentieth century and continuing today, the crisis in black education has grown significantly in urban neighborhoods where public schools lack resources, endure overcrowding, exhibit a racial achievement gap, and confront policies that fail to deliver substantive opportunities. The touted benefits of education remain elusive to many blacks of all ages. Tragically, some poorly performing schools serve as pipelines to prison for youths.

Yet, African American history is rich in centuries-old efforts of resistance to this crisis: the Slaves’ surreptitious endeavors to learn; the rise of black colleges and universities after the Civil War; unrelenting battles in the courts; the black history movement; the freedom schools of the 1960s; and local community-based academic and mentorship programs that inspire a love of learning and thirst for achievement. Addressing the crisis in black education should be considered one of the most important goals in America’s past, present and future.

As a member of a progressive professional organization, I challenge you to educate yourself about the history of African Americans in Arkansas and in America. With the 60th Anniversary of the Crisis of 1957 approaching, I have prepared a reading list to expand your knowledge about the history of racism in education in Arkansas (following Dr. Griffen’s bio).

Patricia L. Griffen, Ph.D., is past president of ArPA and currently serves as Co-Chair of the Diversity Committee. She is also a member of the Professional Development Committee. Dr. Griffen is CEO and President of Clinical Psychology Services, Inc., in Little Rock, a general practice in clinical psychology.

Reading List: History of Racism in Education in Arkansas

Beals, Melba Pattillo. Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High. New York: Washington Square Books, 1994.

Bates, Daisy. The Long Shadow of Little Rock. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000.

“Fifty Years Later.” Special issue, Arkansas Times. September 20, 2007.

Kirk, John Andrew. Redefining the Color Line: Black Activism in Little Rock, Arkansas 1940–1970. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002.

LaNier, Carlotta Walls, and Lisa Frazier Page. A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School. New York: One World/Ballantine, 2009.

Reed, Roy. Faubus: The Life and Times of an American Prodigal. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1997.

Roberts, Terrence. Lessons from Little Rock. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2009.

Roberts, Terrence. Simple, Not Easy. Little Rock: Parkhurst Brothers, Inc., 2010.

Roy, Beth. Bitters in the Honey: Tales of Hope and Disappointment across Divides of Race and Time. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1999.