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The Association for the Study of African American Life and History: A Brief History

In the following account Professor Malik Simba of California State University, Fresno, describes the century-long histry of the largest organized body dedicated to the research and promotion of African American history.

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) is the oldest and largest historical society established for the promotion of African American history.  Carter Godwin Woodson founded it as the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) in 1915.  The name was  later changed to the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History in 1972.  The Associations‘  mission statement describes its purpose "to promote, research, preserve, interpret, and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community.”  The Association’s vision statement still refers to itself as “the premier Black heritage learned society…[which]will continue the Carter G. Woodson legacy.”  

Dr. Woodson, known as the father of Negro History, created two publications in support of the ASNLH, the Journal of Negro History and  the Negro History Bulletin.  In 1926 he initiated the national campaign to celebrate black history through annual Negro History Week observances.  Woodson purposely chose the second week in February between the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.  Woodson explaining that in  publicizing the  records, contributions, and accomplishments of Black people, the Association’s aim “…is not spectacular propaganda or fire-eating agitation.  Nothing can be accomplished in such fashion…The aim of this organization is to set forth facts in scientific form, facts properly set forth will tell their own story.”  

Leaning strongly on historical objectivity as a change agent for race relations progress, Woodson was a product of his time, place, and experience.  The themes of the annual ASNLH meetings  were driven by Woodson’s  personal history as a son of ex-slaves, a child laborer in West Virginia coal mines, a older high

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