Way-In: Black History Month


Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, grew out of an initiative called Negro History Week, begun by Carter Woodson in 1926. Black History Month was first celebrated at Kent State in 1970 and has since received official recognition from many countries. This annual celebration recognizes the central role of blacks in the history of the United States. Many initiatives have been launched as a result of Black History Month. For example, in 1940, the US Postal Service created a stamp series to honor African Americans and their contributions. On January 28 of this year, the Post Office issued the 178th stamp in this series; it featured actor, singer, and dancer Gregory Hines.

Regent University Faculty Way-In
This month our featured faculty expert is Robert Schwarzwalder, Director of Regent University’s Center for Christian Thought and Action and Senior Lecturer in the Department of General Education. He also serves as director of the Charles B. Koch Foundation Leaders program. Schwarzwalder’s research includes an examination of Francis J. Grimke’s contributions to efforts to establish racial equality. Grimke said, “race prejudice can’t be talked down, it must be lived down.”

Excerpts from “Francis J. Grimke: Prophet of Racial Justice, Skeptic of American Power”
“Grimke was the grandson of John Faucheraud Grimke, an associate justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court and wealthy slave holder. His father, attorney and plantation owner Henry Grimke, had children by his white wife and then, after her death, lived in a husband-wife relationship with one of his slaves, Nancy Weston (interracial marriage was then illegal).

“After Henry’s death, one of his all-white sons sold Francis into slavery to a Confederate officer. Yet following the war, the talented young man attended Lincoln University, graduating as the school’s valedictorian…and thereafter started law school at Howard University in 1872. However, sensing the call to Christian ministry, he applied to and was accepted at the nation’s premier theological institution, Princeton Theological Seminary… Grimke went to the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church (sometimes referred to as the “Colored Presbyterian Church”) in Washington, D.C., where he served as pastor for roughly 40 years.

Francis James Grimke (1850-1937)

“In a letter to the members of Princeton Seminary class of 1878 on the event of the 40th anniversary of their graduation, Grimke summarized his ministry:

‘During these forty years two things I have tried to do with all my might: (1) To preach the gospel of the grace of God – to get men to see their need of a saviour, and to accept of Jesus Christ as the way, they truth, the life … (2) I have sought with all my might to fight race prejudice, because I believe it is utterly un-Christian, and that it is doing almost more than anything else to curse our own land and country and the world at large.'”

Read Professor Schwarzwalder’s full chapter chapter on Grimke here.

Artistic Works
Robert Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943) was a Canadian-American Black composer noted for his deeply expressive and unique choral and piano literature. Dett was a professing Christian. Dett was educated at Harvard, Oberlin Music Conservatory, and Eastman School of Music. He worked to preserve spirituals, and his music fused Negro folk music with European art music, such as his Chariot Jubilee, Ave Maria, and Listen to the Lambs, performed here by the Robert Nathaniel Dett Chorale, which was formed in 1998 to perform and perpetuate Dett’s work. He wrote a prize winning book titled The Emancipation of Negro Music and a book of poetry titled The Album of a Heart.

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) was the first African American artist who achieved international acclaim. Tanner became a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopalian Church. His paintings specialized in religious subjects. He was named an honorary chevalier of the Order of the Legion Honoe in 1923, France’s most distinguished award.

The Annunciation (1898), Henry Ossawa Tanner


Nicodemus Visiting Jesus (1899), Henry Ossawa Tanner

The Rosa Parks Story (2002)

For additional historic and current films and documentaries, search our Films on Demand and Academic Video Online media resources for scholarly, informative and thought provoking videos.

As you think about this important memorial month, consider the ongoing concerns and how you address them, such as:

  • Diversity and inclusion issues
  • Macro and micro aggressions
  • Ongoing racial discrimination

Please post your responses, comments, and reflections. Thank you for your thoughtful and prayerful consideration.

Regent Resources

Each year Regent University celebrates Black History month with various events. This year, on February 7, the Association of Black Psychologists hosted a discussion on “The Misdiagnosis of Unrecognized Trauma in African American Youth.” On February 26, the Student Activities Board hosted a Black History Month night of celebration in the Library Atrium featuring art, trivia, dancing and soul food. Last year, the Library created a display featuring many books and contributions by African Americans.

Black History Month display in the Library, 2019

Helpful Links

About the Way-In Discussion Series

Regent University Library, the intellectual hub of the campus, invites the Regent community to engage in conversation, discussion, and exploration of life’s challenging issues. Each month, the topic explored will concern wicked issues, that is, complex situations where no one answer is sufficient. Often the Christian perspective is absent from these kinds of conversations. The Way-In series encourages the inclusion of Christian perspectives, Scriptural insights, and Divine wisdom.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). If Jesus is the Way, what might a Christian response to various challenging issues look like? We invite you to peruse some Regent University faculty perspectives, explore some resources on the topic, and most importantly, “weigh in” and provide your reflections and responses in the comments section. We will respond with a YouTube recording to answer questions and respond to your comments in a few weeks.

Proverbs 16:16 reminds us that getting wisdom is better than gold, and insight better than silver. Together, let us explore the wisdom available to us as we consider these topics.

– Dr. Esther R. Gillie, Dean of the University Library