Celebrating Black History in Ohio
It has often been noted that Black History Month occurs in the shortest month of the year. Even with leap year’s extra day, the month that honors the achievements of African-Americans doesn’t provide ample time to explore Ohio’s multiculturalism and diversity or to experience the impact African-Americans have had in this state.
For example, many people know that Maya Angelou was the first African- American poet to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration when she read at President Bill Clinton’s swearing in, but it was Paul Laurence Dunbar, an African-American poet laureate from Dayton who was a special guest at President William McKinley’s inaugural parade in 1901. Dunbar’s Dayton home, the Paul Laurence Dunbar State Memorial, has been restored and displays his literary works, furnishings and even a bicycle that the Wright Brothers built for him.
Did you know the term “Underground Railroad” was inspired by runaway slave, Tice Davids. Davids escaped from his Kentucky master so elusively that his owner proclaimed that he must have traveled on an “underground railroad.” Underground Railroad locations existed throughout Ohio. Most notably the Rankin House, in Ripley, one of the first and most active sites for slaves fleeing to freedom. Now a museum, the Rankin House overlooks the Ohio River and is a National Landmark.
With the release of the movie Red Tails, the Tuskegee Airmen have been in the spotlight lately, as they were the first African-American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces, but did you know that the Air Force was the first of the military branches to integrate their armed forces? This and more information about the impact that African-Americans made can be found at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton.
There is so much to learn and discover throughout Ohio during Black History Month and every month. Don’t let February be the extent of experiencing African-American contributions and celebrating Ohio’s rich cultural landmarks.