Peruse materials related to Black history & African-American student life at Ohio University from collections of University Archives, Mahn Center for Archives & Special Collections, Ohio University Libraries.
Black History Month
Ohio University celebrates Black History Month throughout the month of February – celebrating Black heritage, encouraging reflection, and renewing our resilience in the face of current challenges.
Expand to learn more about the 2022 Black History Month theme – Black Health and Wellness
The theme for 2022 focuses on the importance of Black Health and Wellness. This theme acknowledges the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birthworkers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora. The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well.
In order to foster good health and wellness Black people have embarked on self-determination, mutual aid and social support initiatives to build hospitals, medical and nursing schools (i.e. Meharry Medical College, Howard University College of Medicine, Provident Hospital and Training School, Morehouse School of Medicine, etc.) and community clinics. Clinics were established by individuals, grassroots organizations and mutual aid societies, such as the African Union Society, National Association of Colored Women and Black Panther Party, to provide spaces for Black people to counter the economic and health disparities and discrimination that are found at mainstream institutions. These disparities and anti-Blackness led to communities developing phrases such as “When white folks catch a cold, Black folks get pneumonia.” Initiatives to help decrease disparities have centered several outcomes, including having more diverse practitioners and representation in all segments of the medical and health programs including such as the Ronald E. McNair Scholars. Even the impact of popular culture texts like Doc McStuffins cannot be dismissed.
The rise of fields, such as Public and Community Health and Health Informatics have led to a rise in preventive care and a focus on body positivity, physical exercise, nutrition, exploring other dietary options such as veganism and vegetarianism, and gardening. Black Health and Wellness not only includes one’s physical body, but also emotional and mental health. At this point in the 21st century, our understanding of Black health and wellness is broader and more nuanced than ever. Social media and podcasts, such as The Read, hosted by Crissle and Kid Fury have normalized talking about mental health and going to therapy as well as initiatives such as Therapy for Black Girls. More of us understand the need to hold down, lift up, center, and fight fiercely for our beloved trans siblings and family. Black girls are doing breathwork, and there are whole yoga studios dedicated to people of color.
Mindful of Sister Audre Lorde’s words, we are doing more to move forward holistically for the betterment of ourselves, our bodies, our relationships, our communities, and our planet.
We are determined to create a platform that shines a light on the multiple facets of Black health and wellness through education and activism. There is much to uncover, amplify, question, and correct.
In the still overhanging shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, Black people should and do use data and other information-sharing modalities to document, decry, and agitate against the interconnected, intersecting inequalities intentionally baked into systems and structures in the U.S. for no other reason than to curtail, circumscribe, and destroy Black well-being in all forms and Black lives. Moreover, Black communities must look to the past to provide the light for our future, by embracing the rituals, traditions and healing modalities of our ancestors. These ways of knowing require a decolonization of thought and practice.
Black Alumni Spotlights
When Earl Hopkins learned he was to receive the most prestigious diversity honor bestowed upon an Ohio University student, he was floored.
In honor of Dr. Francine C. Childs, the first tenured African American professor at OHIO and longtime stalwart for social justice and equality, the Dr. Francine Childs Diversity Leadership Award recognizes individuals who promote the principles of social justice, leadership, cultural diversity and service to the campus and/or region.
Hopkins will never forget the moments that led up to walking across the Leadership Gala stage. He’d never been more nervous to accept an award in his life.
“I didn’t have to do a speech or anything, I was just in awe of Dr. Childs,” Hopkins noted. “As I sat at the dinner table with my family, waiting to hear her and Tyrone Carr announce my name to the stage, my hands and legs were nearly shaking the table off its legs. Once my name was called, I walked slowly to the stage where I got to embrace and thank her for the recognition. It meant the world to me, and while Dr. Childs will be missed by many, her legacy will live on.”
A 2019 journalism alumnus, Hopkins said Dr. Childs was a foundational part of Ohio University. To him, she was everything any alumni or faculty member should aspire to be — a transcendent figure at the university and in the local community.
It’s safe to say Hopkins draws much inspiration from Dr. Childs and her role as a change catalyst in the lives of young people.
A general assignment reporter for The Columbus Dispatch and a contributing writer for its subsidiary publications, Columbus Alive, Columbus Monthly and Columbus CEO, Hopkins aspires to become an executive editor for a local news publication. He knows what kind of impact he could have in that position.
“For decades, news leaders have been discussing ways publications can mirror the communities they serve. But that comes with diversifying the world of news, which they’ve often avoided,” he explained. “Without the presence of POC, the stories of Black, Latinx and Asian-American communities aren’t done as effectively. While there are plenty of journalists who are dedicated to covering these issues and do them at a high level, they’re not as capable of empathizing or understanding these communities compared to reporters who grew up in them.”
Hopkins wants to be in a position to give young Black men and women an opportunity to carve out a career in journalism, which, he said, isn’t encouraged as much as other career paths in his community.
“I know a lot of my own family members with similar talents as a writer, who were directed toward other professional directions – some better, some worse,” Hopkins said. “But with having an opportunity to uplift others, it’s a person’s responsibility to ensure other young children have the same resources – if not more.”
As a student at Ohio University, Hopkins had a plethora of resources available to him. He can say with confidence that without these experiences, he wouldn’t be who he is today.
Hopkins was the president of the Black Student Communication Caucus, known for hosting the annual poetry slam and Women in Communication series. He was also a contributing writer for WOUB’s Hardwood Heroes and Gridiron Glory, as well as Thread Magazine, Backdrop Magazine and Fangle Magazine. During his senior year, he worked as a freelance writer for The Athens Messenger, where he started his own “Local Music Series” column for the 173-year-old daily paper.
Between his time in the newsroom, Hopkins was a residential assistant for three years and the president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, Phi Chapter. His time as Phi Chapter president was one of his most difficult, but rewarding, moments at OHIO.
“After juggling MLK week and other programming efforts, I’d be exhausted, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world,” he explained. “With these experiences, I learned how to properly lead and develop engaging programs that positively impacted our student body and the larger Athens community. Without being a part of these organizations and meeting supportive faculty members like Dr. Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, Tyrone Carr, Allison Hunter and others, I wouldn’t have challenged myself to take on these organizational roles and grow as a leader.”
His growth didn’t stop upon graduating from OHIO. Each day, Hopkins sets out with a goal to learn something new. He doesn’t want to be in a position where he’s not gaining knowledge in his day-to-day.
“I think that’s why I chose to be a journalist. I learn something new with each assignment,” said Hopkins, who also owns his own photography business, Armani Photography. “When your curiosity begins to wane, you stop growing. It’s my mission to learn something new each day, whether by listening to a podcast, reading a book or going down a random rabbit hole of Google searches, we have to make a conscious effort to expand our minds.”
As the Ohio University community celebrates Black History Month this month, Hopkins urges people, especially those who are not Black, to do the same — make a conscious effort to expand their minds. He said it’s important non-Black people learn more about Black culture on their own, rather than rely on past recollections from school textbooks and the like.
“In time, they will get a true sense of our impact in this country and gain a more well-rounded perspective,” Hopkins added. “It's important to acknowledge that Black history transcends beyond the month of February. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up acknowledging February as a time of added recognition, but we need to honor our history and celebrate the contributions of prominent and lesser known figures every chance we get, not just 28 or sometimes 29 days out the year. Black History Month is a vital part of American history and should be respected as such.”
The journalist said Black History Month is representative of what most Black people already know: this country wouldn’t be what it is without the presence of Black social activists, scientists, politicians, educators, inventors, and so on.
“While I think Black History Month should be celebrated, our contributions can’t be encapsulated in a month’s time,” he said. “It’s not enough.”
According to Hopkins, the best way to uplift Black voices every day, not just during February, is to listen. Often, he finds that’s the most difficult aspect of having these kinds of conversations.
“To aid the oppressed, you have to know what’s suppressing them. It also helps when people who are able to articulate these concerns are given a platform, or at least room to create their own,” Hopkins noted. “As OHIO has done in the past with the Scripps’ 90 Minute Series, the university developed programs around race and diversity, and allowed the audience to engage in the conversation.”
There’s a public defender in South Carolina who walks into her office at work each morning, motivated and inspired to help people that can’t afford private attorneys. In that office, you’ll find a photo of Athens, Ohio.
To Jasmine Lambert, it’s much more than a picture of a small town in Southeast Ohio. Some of the most inspiring moments of her life took place at Ohio University.
She remembers young Black men marching along the Athens bricks during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Silent March each year. She thinks back on the Blackburn Spencer Homecoming Pageant when her fellow scholars gathered together, dressed to the nines, and all felt so much love and inspiration in the room.
“My time at OHIO was nothing short of amazing,” said Lambert, who graduated from OHIO in 2017 with two bachelor’s degrees in political science and journalism. “I definitely could not have asked for a better place to go to undergrad.”
One of the best experiences Lambert had at OHIO was being a part of the Templeton Scholars Program, a comprehensive scholarship program designed for academically talented students. The Program honors John Newton Templeton — OHIO’s first African American graduate, Class of 1828 — and his legacy, with an emphasis on academic excellence, leadership, and campus and community involvement at Ohio University.
“It gave me and many other diverse students the opportunity to leave college without any student loan debt and for that, I’m extremely grateful,” Lambert noted. “We were required to maintain a certain GPA, so it always pushed me to do my best with my schoolwork. We also had to take different types of leadership courses every semester and that helped provide me with leadership skills that I use today.”
The Templeton Scholars Program encouraged Lambert to make the most of her time at the University. As a result, she was president of the Ohio University Association of Black Journalists; she was a member of Black Student Union and the Black Student Cultural Programming Board; and she was an OMSAR scholar.
Lambert was a peer mentor for OHIO’s Office for Multicultural Student Access and Retention (OMSAR), and she went on the first-ever study abroad trip to Jamaica that OMSAR sponsored.
“I received departmental honors in political science, so I wrote an honors thesis on welfare policy in the United States,” Lambert added. “I can honestly say that all the people in the OMSAR office shaped me, especially Alison Moore and Dr. Jacob Okumu. Winsome Chunnu in the Multicultural Center was one of my go-to people to talk to. I also really enjoyed President Roderick McDavis and his wife (he was president of OHIO my entire time). I had the opportunity to speak with them multiple times and they were always so encouraging and gracious with their time. I had a very thriving social life and met some of my lifelong friends that I still talk to almost every day.”
Upon graduating from Ohio University, Lambert and two fellow Bobcats, Alexis Apparicio and Jarman Smith, all attended The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law together. While law school was one of the biggest obstacles she’s faced thus far, Lambert knew she wasn’t alone.
“Law school is very intense and it requires a lot of time management,” she said. “I will definitely say that my journalism education helped a lot with my legal writing classes in terms of grammar and writing precision. I also went to law school with two fellow Black Bobcats, Alexis and Jarman, and we really looked out for each other.”
Lambert is practicing criminal defense today, with a career goal of becoming a judge. But, she’s still putting her journalism skills to good use. Another goal she has is to grow her food blog, Brunch in the Summertime, where she eats yummy food and writes reviews about it.
Additionally, Lambert aspires to start a nonprofit focused on improving the lives of children with incarcerated parents. She believes that everything starts at home.
“People are never born criminals, they just sometimes feel like they don’t have any other choices and end up in the prison system,” Lambert explained. “I want to show kids that there are other options besides following in their parent’s footsteps, because it is likely that their parents also grew up with unfortunate circumstances.”
Lambert knows that often times, children yearn for a shoulder to lean on, someone to advocate for them, and for someone to listen.
As the Ohio University community recognizes Black History this month, Lambert urges people to take the time to listen.
“During Black History Month and even year-round, there are a lot of Black voices sharing stories and tributes and I think it’s important for people not of color to listen to those and understand that is their truth whether they disagree or not,” Lambert said. “I also think it’s important to be a vocal ally. I think a lot of people not of color consider themselves allies to Black people, but it really means nothing if you see injustices or mistreatment and don’t say or do anything because instead of uplifting Black voices you are being complicit in tearing them down.”
As a Black woman, Lambert reflects on and stands strong in her culture daily, but she believes it’s important for people of all races to take a moment to reflect on the history of Black people, because it’s a large part of the history of America.
Explore Black History
Ohio University Black History Pinterest Board
Black History Tour of Athens
This virtual tour focuses on achievements of African Americans in Athens, many of which emplaced the foundations for future successes of African Americans in and outside of our community.
Reading List from Alden Library
Alden Library offers a collection of general and subject-specific materials on anti-racism.