Pitt Marks Black History Month With Feb. 5 Reception and Program at Heinz History Center

Issue Date: 
January 21, 2013

University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg and Pitt Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Robert Hill, in association with the Senator John Heinz History Center, will host an invitation-only reception and program from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 5 at the History Center, 1212 Smallman Street, Strip District. The event is Pitt’s annual K. Leroy Irvis Black History Month Program.

The event will call attention to the current ongoing exhibition—From Slavery to Freedom: Pittsburgh and the Underground Railroad—that opened at the History Center Nov. 30. The display highlights the history of the antislavery movement, the Underground Railroad, and the impact of 19th-century activism on the modern quest for human rights in Pittsburgh. Through artifacts, rare documents, interactive activities, and audio/video components, the exhibition connects this region’s earliest African inhabitants to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and discusses today’s hopes for freedom and equality.

Some components of the exhibition were also used in Pitt’s own pathbreaking 2008-09 exhibition at the History Center, Free at Last? Slavery in Pittsburgh in the 18th and 19th Centuries, which explored in depth—for the first time—the little-known fact that slavery persisted in Western Pennsylvania through the years directly preceding the Civil War.

Information on the Feb. 5 event follows.
• 5-5:50 p.m. Exhibition Previews of From Slavery to Freedom Magovern Gallery, fourth floor

• 5:30 p.m. Reception and Program Mueller Center, fifth floor Speakers will include Chancellor Nordenberg, Robert Hill, Pitt history professor Laurence Glasco, and History Center curator Sam Black.

• 6:45-8 p.m. Exhibition Tours of From Slavery to Freedom resume Magovern Gallery, fourth floor

Pitt began its Black History Month Program in 2004 with the world premiere of the documentary K. Leroy Irvis: The Lion of Pennsylvania and renamed the annual event the K. Leroy Irvis Black History Month Program in 2008 to honor the memory of the legendary Pennsylvania legislative leader and Pitt alumnus and trustee. Irvis, who in 1977 became the first African American speaker of the House of Representatives in Pennsylvania and the first Black speaker of any state house since reconstruction, sponsored the 1966 bill that made Pitt a state-related institution of higher education.

Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950)—who earned a Harvard University PhD and was a celebrated African American author, educator, and historian—initiated what he called Negro History Week in 1926. At the heart of the annual February observance, which in 1976 became Black History Month, is honoring African Americans who have struggled and achieved important milestones to advance the mission of social equity.