The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), the nation’s oldest historical Black athletic conference joins the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the Founders of Black History Month, to announce the 2021 Annual Black History Theme — The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity.

Founded in 1912, the CIAA has a rich history and part of that history encompasses Black History Month for hosting its annual men’s and women’s basketball tournament.  Using virtual programming this February, the CIAA and ASALH will celebrate Black History Month and engage our friends and communities across the United States and beyond. Through a digital campaign that will highlight not only historical but timely acknowledgements of Black History during the years of the athletic conference’s existence, the CIAA will introduce to its scholar athletes and larger national family the contributions and legacy of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History and founder of ASALH in 1915.

ASALH’s National President Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham praises the CIAA-ASALH collaboration, stating: “During Carter G. Woodson’s lifetime (1875-1950), the nation’s larger racial “playing field” was anything but fair and equal, and yet African Americans revealed through sports their ability to challenge and visibly refute claims to white superiority. It is to Dr. Woodson’s credit that his Associated Publishers brought out Edwin Bancroft Henderson’s The Negro in Sports (1939), the first book in sports history on the role of African Americans and a significant forerunner to the scholarship taught in today’s college courses on American sports history. Thus, ASALH proudly affirms its past and present relationship to the CIAA.”

Since 1926 when Woodson’s Negro History Week was initiated, then expanded by ASALH to Black History Month, ASALH has established an annual theme to be introduced in the month of February, then researched, promoted, and celebrated throughout the year. The theme of the Black Family is particularly relevant.

“The ASALH theme resonates with the CIAA because we’re a family,” said CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams. “For generations, our Black families have attended our member institutions and supported this conference. The CIAA mission, its tradition, leadership, and legacy align perfectly with Dr. Woodson’s vision. We are excited about the future as we join ASALH to ensure his legacy will not only be expressed in February but throughout the entire year.”

The collaboration came about through CIAA-member school Bowie State University’s engagement with ASALH during 2020—the centennial year of the Negro National League (founded in 1920) and the culmination of the 81st anniversary of ASALH’s The Negro in Sports. After several meetings it was clear that both organizations had a natural alignment for not only February but for year-round educational opportunities for providing resources on the history of Black athlete trailblazers and pioneers often left out of textbooks. 

“As educators, we owe much to Dr. Woodson and his legacy of elevating the achievements of African Americans across many generations,” said Bowie State University President Aminta H. Breaux. “This year’s theme resonates greatly with our university – the first HBCU in Maryland – and the need to create greater awareness of the contributions African American families have made to education, athletics and American culture throughout our nation’s history.”
“History has shown that athletics is more than just entertainment but can also be the impetus for change,” added McWilliams. “The role and the impact of the Black athlete is a powerful and instrumental theme throughout Black History as well as in the social justice movement.”

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 About the CIAA
Founded in 1912, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) is the first and longest running, African American athletic conference in the U.S. and one of the most recognized conferences in Division II.  The CIAA conducts 14 championships attended by more than 150,000 fans from around the country.  In 2020, the conference celebrated the special 75th anniversary of its Championship Basketball Tournament – an event that has become a must-see in the African American community  The Basketball Tournament has been honored as a Champion of Economic impact in Sports Tourism by Sports Destination Management, the leading publication with the largest circulation of sports event planners and tournament directors in the sports tourism market, for both 2018 and 2019, Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, the CIAA is governed by the Presidents and Chancellors of its 12 member institutions:  Bowie State University, Claflin University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University, Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, Livingstone College, Saint Augustine’s University, Chowan University is an associate member in football and women’s bowling.  For more information on the CIAA, visit the, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

About ASALH’s Black History Month Festival 2021
Throughout the month of February 2021, ASALH will host the Black History Month Festival, a virtual programming experience in observance and celebration of the strengths, struggles, resistance, and the sheer perseverance of the Black family.  The Festival will feature a series of dynamic presenters and stellar educational events that demonstrate how Black people helped shape the American landscape and were shaped by it, posited through the lens of food, religion, social justice, education, economics, music, and much more as to their impact on the endurance of Black families. Go to for more information.