By TAPinto Rahway Staff


RAHWAY, NJ — As a lovely coda to Black History Month, students in Mr. David Brighouse’s African American Studies class enjoyed a special surprise last week when a package arrived at the school addressed to their teacher but containing something that was really for them.

The class had just finished learning about historian Carter Godwin Woodson, the founder of Black History Month and just the second African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University, in 1912 (following W.E.B. Du Bois, who earned his in 1895).

The class also discussed the origins of Woodson’s organization, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), founded in 1915, which today guides the nation’s Black History Month events and activities and picks the annual theme. The 2024 theme is “African Americans and the Arts.”

“It just so happens that we get to Woodson and the founding of Black History Month in February because the timing works out,” Brighouse said. “Because as I always tell my students, Black History Month is every day in our class.”

But this year, for the first time, the longtime teacher of the class had an idea.

Why not write to the ASALH and see if they’d send the class something?

“I’m an unapologetic requester of free things, especially as an educator,” Brighouse said, only half joking. “But, more importantly, I really try my best to connect what we’re learning in class to something tangible or relevant or current. So I thought, the ASALH is located right in Washington, D.C. Why not reach out, tell someone there who we are, and let them know that my students would be thrilled to be in touch and receive something from the organization they just learned about.”

So he reached out to the ASALH, sending a short message to its general email address, not necessarily expecting to hear back or, at least, not right away.

“But the craziest thing happened,” he said. “Not only did I hear back from the executive director of the organization, Ms. Sylvia Cyrus (who has held the position since 2003), but in a complete coincidence, she said, ‘I know Rahway very well. I grew up right next door in Linden.’ It was really something.”

And Cyrus promised to send something, with the caveat that it likely wouldn’t arrive in time for Black History Month. It was no problem, as Brighouse and Cyrus share the same philosophy about Black history’s status as a regular, ongoing, all-year affair.

And, thus, one morning last week, Brighouse opened up the package and unfurled three brand-new posters related to the 2024 Black History Month theme, along with a copy of the ASALH’s Black History Bulletin, a publication specifically intended for secondary educators.

“It was just a great and generous gesture,” Brighouse said. “My students were really excited and so was I. I really felt at that instant that Carter Woodson’s mission of promoting and improving education and producing and disseminating African American history was alive and well in the very organization he founded almost 110 years ago.”

And, indeed, that mission remains alive and well—in the schools, in innumerable volumes that now fill bookshelves and libraries, in the month of February, and, it is to be hoped, every day, in some way, over the course of the year.

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