5-day convention gives historians a chance to discuss, share ideas

TAKING TIME OUT FOR BLACK HISTORY

October 22, 1993|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Staff Writer

Troy Kendall, a 16-year-old West Baltimore student, knows about the black struggle for equal rights in America.

The Edmondson High School sophomore has seen the pictures of police dogs attacking protesters, read about blacks being refused service in public establishments and listened to his grandparents' stories of verbal abuse on the job and elsewhere.

But Troy seeks to know more about the history of blacks in America. So yesterday he was among close to 200 city high school students who attended sessions of the 78th annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History at the Omni Inner Harbor Hotel.

At the five-day conference, which ends Sunday, Troy visited exhibits of African-American life and talked to several black historians.

"Things have changed mostly for the better, but the history of black people is always being revised," he said. "A lot of it's sad, but I think black history is something all black people should know about and keep up with."

Organizers say the annual meeting brings together the world's largest gathering of black historians for discussions and exchanges of information.

The association was founded in Chicago in 1915 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson -- universally regarded at the "father of black history" -- and its purpose is to conduct in-depth research and disseminate the information to school children.

"The goal is [also] to provide the larger public with well-researched, historically accurate information on the accomplishments and achievements of black Americans -- past and present," said Dr. Samuel L. Banks. He is executive director of the division of compensatory education in the Baltimore public school system.

"The most valuable part for me as a historian is being able to interact with other historians," said Dr. Banks, who was president of the association from 1983 to 1986.

"I've learned that there's a great deal of enthusiasm and a lust for actual knowledge about black people. A central piece is how black people have overcome adversity. We share information."

At this year's conference, many topics -- including blacks before and during the Civil War, blacks in education and blacks in politics -- are being discussed.

Dr. Judylynn Mitchell, an educator from Wicomico County on the Eastern Shore who is attending her third conference, said she learns more at each meeting about black history.

"Black history is ongoing. This helps to stimulate, to continue to be able to spread the knowledge about African-Americans," Dr. Mitchell said.

She said students have not received enough lessons on black history in past years, but now more information is available to them.

The study of black history, said Dr. Mitchell, is "beneficial not only to the African-American child but to all races."

Dr. Roland C. McConnell, who taught history at Morgan State University for more than 30 years, said it is important to have the conference yearly because new facts are always being found.

"We're finding more out all of the time. Scholars here furnish information that needs to be taught daily," said Dr. McConnell, who retired in 1978.

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