Collin College is celebrating culture and diversity through a variety of events honoring African American History Month.

The month-long celebrations will educate and inform about embracing unity and diversity.  The theme of this year’s African American History Month is civil rights, and from Feb. 4 – 27, the college is showcasing panels, presentations and discussions about the history of civil rights and what the future holds.

“Civil rights has historical significance for all of us despite racial, ethnic or religious affiliations,” said Collin College biology professor Cathy Donald-Whitney. “It is imperative that as a society we recognize and appreciate the positive impact that the civil rights movement has had in our society.”

The Civil Rights Era occurred around the time period of 1955 – 1968 and encompassed a movement to end practices such as discrimination and segregation against African American individuals. Civil disobedience, sit-ins, boycotts, marches and other nonviolent protests characterized the Civil Rights Era. One of the most striking achievements of this time period is the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which banned discrimination based on religion, color, national origin or race for hiring practices.

“It is crucial for everyone to appreciate the progress we have made in regards to race relations and civil rights in America,” Donald-Whitney explained. “However, it is imperative that Americans are cognizant of the fact that there is still work to be done.”

The roots of African American History month stem from author and journalist Dr. Carter G. Woodson who first initiated National Negro Week in 1926, choosing February because Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas both had February birthdays. The U.S. government officially recognized African American History Month in 1976 and declared that the month serves to remind Americans to remember the significant contributions and accomplishments of African Americans.

African American History Month Co-Chairs Cathy Donald-Whitney and Donna Okaro, assistant director of student life, invite faculty to bring their classes to events to learn more. They encourage students to attend, as well and volunteer to assist.  In addition to civil rights presentations, students, faculty and the Collin County community can participate through film screenings, interpretive dance, luncheons and guest speakers at the Spring Creek, Preston Ridge and Central Park Campuses.

“We have to understand the atrocities of the past to create a better future,” Donald-Whitney said.

There are a plethora of resources about African American history at the Collin College libraries. Visit Collin College’s African American History Month website at iws.collin.edu/aah/links.html or http://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/ to learn more and iws.collin.edu/aah/events.html for a complete listing of events