Rolfing Unshelved

Books, news, and events from TIU's Rolfing Library


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Book Displays: February 2015

Paul and the New Perspective

Thinking through Paul : A Survey of His Life, Letters, and Theology – Todd D. Still and Bruce W. Longenecker

The Apostle Paul is a prominent figure in the New Testament. The story of his missionary journeys takes up about half of the book of Acts, and his epistles make up about half of the books of the New Testament. The prominence of Paul’s epistles in the New Testament inevitably means that no student of the New Testament can avoid Paul for long. Unfortunately, Paul is not always easy to navigate through. Many of his epistles are long and contain deep and complex theology that is not always so clear to the reader, especially one reading them nearly 2000 years after he wrote them. There is often Thinking through Paulmuch confusion for students about what Paul was trying to say, and often, upon only a cursory study of Paul, the student does not have a thorough understanding of Paul and his theology.

Mastering the breadth and depth of Paul and his theology can be a daunting proposition for anyone studying the Pauline epistles. That is why Todd Still and Bruce Longenecker have undertaken the task of writing Thinking through Paul : A Survey of His Life, Letters, and Theology. Still and Longenecker contend that “if … we approach the study of Paul with the goal of acquiring only a superficial familiarity with the basic features of his life and writings, the process is unlikely to be exciting, challenging, or life-changing” (10).

The book is divided into three parts. The first part reviews the life and ministry of Paul, the second part gleans a better understanding of Paul by evaluating each of his 13 epistles, and the last part evaluates Paul’s theology from different aspects. These three parts make it easier for the student to better understand how Paul “ticked,” helping not only to better know who Paul was as a person, but also to better understand the basis for Paul’s theology. This book is is an invaluable resource for students of the New Testament, not just as a classroom textbook, but also as a text for self-study. Still and Longenecker explain that “you will have the textbook that we would have wanted available to us in earlier days — that is, a practical and user-friendly guide to Paul’s life, letters, and theological discourse” (12). If you are looking for a clear, readable book about the life, epistles, and theology of Paul, this book is perfect.

Other Titles:

Paul’s Witness to Formative Early Christian Instruction
Christ Absent and Present : A Study in Pauline Christology
Grace and Agency in Paul and Second Temple Judaism : Interpreting the Transformation of the Heart
Paul and the Vocation of Israel : How Paul’s Jewish Identity Informs his Apostolic Ministry, with Special Reference to Romans
Paul in Acts and Paul in his Letters
Ancient Perspectives on Paul
Philippi : How Christianity Began in Europe : The Epistle to the Philippians and the Excavations at Philippi
Outlaw Justice : The Messianic Politics of Paul
Paul and the Miraculous : A Historical Reconstruction
The Death of Jesus : Some Reflections on Jesus-Traditions and Paul
Paul and Judaism Revisited : A Study of Divine and Human Agency in Salvation

Presidents’ Day

The True Mary Todd Lincoln : A Biography – Betty Boles Ellison

Every year on Presidents’ Day, we are reminded of the great men that have led our country over the years. But what about the great women who stood beside them every step of the way? There is possibly none more well-known — at least in Illinois — than Mary Todd LinTrue Mary Todd Lincolncoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln. Most probably remember her for her abrasive personality and her stint in an insane asylum near the end of her life. But is there more to Mary Todd Lincoln than is often credited to her?

Betty Boles Ellison thinks there is. She has set out to give Mary Todd Lincoln a fair appraisal, evaluating Mary not just on her unpleasant qualities, but on her praiseworthy qualities as well. Ellison sets out to challenge the common misconceptions about Mary’s “extravagant” spending, her supposedly excessive purchases to refurbish the Executive Mansion, and her mental health and well-being. Ellison has exonerated Mary from many of the unfair and derisive accusations that have been leveled against her. This book paints a clearer and more accurate picture of Mary as the “sassy, politically savvy, sophisticated, sarcastic, intelligent, temperamental, sensitive, attractive” woman that she was (5). With its superb research and excellent argumentation, The True Mary Todd Lincoln is an invaluable contribution to the history of the Lincoln family. It is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the history of America’s Presidents and the incredible wives who stood by them and supported them.

Other Titles:

The Gamble : Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election
Change They Can’t Believe In : The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America
Morning in America : How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980’s
Presidents and the Dissolution of the Union : Leadership Style from Polk to Lincoln
Conservative Internationalism : Armed Diplomacy under Jefferson, Polk, Truman, and Reagan
John Tyler, the Accidental President
Creatures of Politics : Media, Message, and the American Presidency
Who Are the Criminals? : The Politics of Crime Policy from the Age of Roosevelt to the Age of Reagan
Barack Obama’s Post-American Foreign Policy : The Limits of Engagement
Not Even Past : Barack Obama and the Burden of Race
Watergate : A Brief History with Documents
The Politics of Presidential Appointments : Political Control and Bureaucratic Performance
Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State : Why Americans Vote the Way They Do

Liberation and Black Theologies

Liberation Theologies in the United States : An Introduction – edited by Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas and Anthony B. Pinn

Any student of the Bible and theology has at least heard of liberation theology, but for many of them there is confusion about exactly what liberation theology is and how it affects Christianity. One of the things that makes liberation theology so difficult to completely grasp is that there are many theologies that fit under the rubric of liberation theology. What began as a response to the poverty, mistreatment, and marginalization throughout Latin America has grown to include those around the world who find themselves in a similar albeit unique situation of their own. The book often refers to these theologies as “contextual” theologiesLiberation Theologies in the US because of the unique social context from which these theologies arose.

Many of these contextual theologies have either taken root in or migrated to the united States. Liberation Theologies in the United States : An Introduction provides a thorough description of the various forms of liberation theology found within the United States – some of them well-known, others more obscure. For instances, black, gay and lesbian, and feminist theologies are somewhat familiar, yet Asian-American, native feminist, and Latina theologies are not as well known. It is important for the students to strive to understand and to interact with these theologies, especially those who intend to pastor a church. A pastor should be prepared to answer questions and engage in discussion about these theological ideas, explaining liberation theology and how it relates to traditional theology. If you are a bit unsure of what liberation theology is all about and you are interested in educating yourself, this is good place to start.

Other Titles:

The Divided Mind of the Black Church : Theology, Piety, and Public Witness
Esotericism in African American Religious Experience : There is a Mystery…
Indigenous Black Theology : Toward an African-Centered Theology of the African American Religious Experience
The Forgotten Prophet : Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition
The Commercial Church : Black Churches and the New Religious Marketplace in America
African American Religious Experiences : A Case Study of Twentieth-Century Trends and Practices
Representations of Homosexuality : Black Liberation Theology and Cultural Criticism
Experiencing the Truth : Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church
The Poor in Liberation Theology : Pathway to God or Ideological Construct?
The Reemergence of Liberation Theologies : Models for the Twenty-First Century
Urban God Talk : Constructing a Hip-Hop Spirituality
The Black Church and Hip-Hop Culture : Toward Bridging the Generational Divide
Heart and Head : Black Theology : Past, Present, and Future
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Book Displays: January 2015

Homosexuality and Gay Marriage

Is God Anti-Gay? And Other Questions about Homosexuality, the Bible and Same-sex Attraction by Sam Allberry

In recent years, the issues of homosexuality, same-sex attraction, and gay marriage have come to the fore. Many churches and even denominationsIs God anti-gay have been torn apart over their stances on these issues. The controversy surrounding homosexuality has raised many questions for Christians about what the Bible says about homosexuality. There is a huge body of work dedicated to this issue, so it can be difficult to get straight answers about homosexuality and the Bible in a clear and concise way. Sam Allberry’s little book, Is God Anti-Gay? And Other Questions about Homosexuality, the Bible and Same-sex Attraction, tackles these questions plainly and succinctly. Allberry addresses some of the biggest questions that Christians ask themselves, including whether the Old Testament prohibition of homosexuality is still applicable today and whether Jesus had anything to say about homosexuality. Allberry also briefly addresses how we as Christians should respond to homosexuality not only in our church, but also within society and culture. The size and content of the book is perfect for anyone who is looking for a manageable read that will help them become more familiar with what the Bible says about homosexuality and how Christians can remain true to Scripture while still reflecting the love and compassion of Christ.

Other Titles:

EFCA Conference 2015

The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority by John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy 

The doctrine of inerrancy has recently become a hot topic among evangelicals. While evangelicalism affirms inerrancy of the Bible, there has been a push against traditional views of inerrancy not only from outside of evangelicalism, but also fromLost World of Scripture within. In order to address this situation and discuss the importance of affirming the inerrancy and authority of scripture, the theme “The Doctrine of the Scriptures” has been chosen for the 2015 EFCA Theology Conference, hosted by TIU later this month. The conference has set out to address the importance of providing churchgoers with a firm foundation of biblical inerrancy. Following the lead of the EFCA conference, one of our monthly displays provides a selection of books on biblical inerrancy and other topics that the conference will feature, such as Calvinism, Arminianism, Luther, evangelical theology and Christian doctrine. We also have e-books available on these issues. Among them is The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority by John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy. Walton and Sandy explore the history of the oral and written transmission of the biblical text and what implications it might have for inerrancy, inspiration and the authority of scripture. The first two parts of the book review the history of written and oral communication of information in the Old and New Testaments, respectively. The third part of the book discusses the various literary genres that were typical of the biblical world, and the final part concludes with a discussion on the reliability and authority of the Scriptures. A 2014 Readers’ Choice Awards Honorable Mention, this book is certainly worth a read if you are interested in learning more about the Bible’s transmission, reliability and authority.

Other Titles:

MLK and Civil Rights

Misremembering Dr. King: Revisiting the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by Jennifer J. Yanco 

When one thinks of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it is difficult not to think of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, in which he speaks out against racial discrimination in the United States, is well-known. King gave his life for the Civil RightsMisremembering Dr. King movement, and his life and death have had an enormous impact in the United States. But what about the other contributions that Martin Luther King made? Why doesn’t anyone ever remember King’s “giant triplets” – militarism, materialism and racism? Jennifer Yanco attempts to rectify this disproportion in her book Misremembering Dr. King: Revisiting the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Yanco argues that King’s other interests have been overshadowed by his role in the Civil Rights Movement. She contends that over time successive generations have left out, or “misremembered,” crucial elements of King’s legacy. Few are aware of King’s concern for the effects of a culture caught up in greed and materialism or his firm stance against militarism and nonviolence in the heat of the Vietnam War. Yanco does not deny the importance of King’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, but she is mainly concerned with emphasizing King’s contributions in other areas in order to reveal more fully who Martin Luther King Jr. was and what he stood for. This book is a great read for those who are interested in learning more about King’s ideals and values and why they are so important to remember alongside his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement.

Other Titles:


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Book Displays: October 2014

Medieval Theology

Thomas Aquinas’s “Summa Theologiae”: A Biography, Bernard McGinn

mcginnPerhaps no medieval theologian is better known than Thomas Aquinas, and without a doubt his most influential book was his Summa Theologiae. Written between 1266 and 1273 (a mere seven years), the volume spans 3,500 pages — and that’s only because Aquinas died before he could complete it. Aquinas intended it to be an educational aid for all the key theological teachings of the Catholic Church, and it follows a cycle: the existence of God, creation, humanity, humanity’s purpose, Christ, the sacraments, and back to God.

While Aquinas’s Summa numbers over 3,000 pages, McGinn’s biography is (thankfully) only a fraction of that length. In 273 pages, he takes readers through the world of Aquinas’s time, his own background, his reasons for writing the Summa, a basic tour of the Summa itself, and then an examination of the Summa‘s reception over the ensuing seven centuries.

Other Titles:

Military History: World War I (Centennial Anniversary)

The Great War: Myth and Memory, Dan Todman

todmanThe way we interpret history after cataclysmic events can often shift over the years. Heroes become villains, formerly sidelined events take front stage, and motivations are assumed where previously none may have been thought to exist. World War I is not exempt from this pattern. The new style of warfare, the brutality of the attacks, the massive numbers of casualties — in retrospect, it’s easy to chalk it up to the “futility of war.” However, Dan Todman argues that this wasn’t necessarily how everyone who lived through the era understood the events. Pride and patriotism were dominant themes of the era, and the “armchair generals” that we decry in the 21st century were actually regaled for their professionalism and effectiveness in winning the war. Todman takes a hard look at the ways the narrative has shifted over the past century, and offers an alternative view.

Other Titles:

Biblical Inerrancy

Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, Albert Mohler, Peter Enns, Michael F. Bird, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, and John R. Franke

vanhoozerFor many evangelicals, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is a central element of their faith — for some, even the central element. But what exactly do we mean by that term “inerrant?” And how central is it to the Christian understanding of the nature and character of God? These five evangelical scholars (one of whom is on faculty here at TEDS and will be leading the library’s Table Talk about this very topic) have come together in a written dialogue about the concept. Their perspectives are:
– When the Bible Speaks, God Speaks: The Classic Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy
– Inerrancy, However Defined, Does Not Describe What the Bible Does
– Inerrancy Is Not Necessary for Evangelicalism Outside the USA
– Augustinian Inerrancy: Literary Meaning, Literal Truth, and Literate Interpretation in the Economy of Biblical Discourse
– Recasting Inerrancy: The Bible as Witness to Missional Plurality

Other Titles:


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Constitution Day: Don’t Think You Can Make a Difference?

“Write a paper about the governmental process.”

20-year-old Gregory Watson, one in a sea of 300 faces in the 1982 spring semester American Government survey class at the University of Texas, read through his syllabus and considered his final assignment. The prompt was broad enough — that was for sure. He figured he’d take a look at the deadline extension of the Equal Rights Amendment, which was set to expire right around the end of the semester. He found a book in the library that listed all the proposed-but-not-ratified amendments to the US Constitution. One in particular caught his interest.

ConstitutionIn 1789, when the ink of the Constitution itself was still drying, Representative (later to become the 4th President) James Madison was concerned about the fact that senators and representatives could vote pay raises for themselves without any oversight. He lobbied to get a clause put into the Constitution itself, but failed — so he decided to take the long way around. He proposed a constitutional amendment that simply read, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.” In other words, any salary changes wouldn’t take effect until after the next election (so the American public could have a say in the process). Seven states ratified the amendment, two short of the necessary two-thirds, and then the movement lost steam. However, there was one peculiar characteristic of this particular amendment: James Madison didn’t write in an expiration date. Thus, at least theoretically, it was still eligible for ratification, even if the necessary “two-thirds” was a lot bigger in the 20th century than it was in the 18th.

Gregory had his topic. He dove in with relish, seeking to show that this amendment was both viable and valid in late 20th-century America. He crafted his argument, supported his assertions — and ended up getting a C on the paper. His professor said the idea was “too unrealistic.” Gregory was furious. He quit school, found work as a staff member in the Texas legislature, and started his letter-writing campaign. Armed with little more than a typewriter, he spent long evenings crafting letters to representatives and senators in states that had not yet passed the amendment. Battling (often uphill) against bureaucracy and political inertia, he remained tenacious. Even after gaining key political partnerships and taking advantage of souring popular opinion against US Congressional conduct, he would still have to put in a grueling decade’s worth of work before enjoying the fruits of his labor. But that work did eventually pay off — on May 7, 1992, almost 203 years after John Madison’s initial proposal, Michigan became the 38th state to add its approval to what became the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

All because one seemingly insignificant undergrad took the initiative and followed his passion.

Bibliography:

 Editor’s Note: Constitution Day is September 17, 2014! Check out our display in the front of the library for more books and films about the Constitution.


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July Book Displays

God-of-LibertyI was immediately drawn in as I began reading the introduction to Thomas Kidd’s God of Liberty. The Baylor University history professor has written an exceptional volume that’s received a number of very positive reviews. If the religious dimensions of  America’s birth as a nation are of interest to you, this is a well-researched and very balanced presentation of all the complexities involved and, I think, without the agenda typically seen in contemporary discussion. It is written at a level accessible to all readers and not encumbered with overly-academic language. There are 47 pages of notes that include a number of primary sources. If you’re researching or like to utilize a book’s index, unfortunately you’ll have to track down the printed edition since the page numbers are absent from this e-Book (at least they were for me).

Modern-Just-War-TheoryMichael Farrell’s Modern Just War Theory is a must-have if you’re interested in the ethics debate on violence and war. It is a robust research guide with several hundred pages devoted to a detailed annotated bibliography. Split into two parts, the first part contains a comprehensive introduction to the entire topic, complete with detailed definitions of terms and examples of the different ethical positions used in contemporary debate. The second part is your tool for research as you can browse hundreds of pages of annotated bibliography and find the resources you need. Whether you’re reading up on just war theory or doing your own academic research, this is a great and comprehensive starting point.

world of the NTThis last book I cannot recommend enough! Joel B. Green and Lee Martin McDonald are the editors of The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts, published in August 2013. It is widely recommended for New Testament studies and includes a host of experienced and emerging scholars in its 641 pages. This volume is rich in research but not exclusive to the academic community. I highly suggest that, at the least, you consult this book for your sermon preparation or New Testament courses. Since we so often place a high value on context in Biblical Studies, this is an opportune resource!

 


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Jonathan Edwards: A (Very) Brief Introduction to “America’s Theologian”

Jonathan EdwardsOn April 23, a guy named John Piper is coming to Trinity to talk about another guy named Jonathan Edwards. You may have seen one or two flyers hanging up about it.

In all seriousness, though, this is a great opportunity to learn about one of the most formative theological influences on America from one of today’s most well-known evangelical theologians. But in order to make the most of this opportunity, it might help to have a little background information on who Jonathan Edwards was and what he did. If you’re already familiar with him, this can help refresh your memory in time for the talk — and if you’re not, this saves you the awkwardness of having to ask.

Jonathan Edwards was born in East Windsor, Connecticut on October 5, 1703, the son and grandson (on his mother’s side) of New England ministers, and the only son of eleven children. Always an eager learner, Edwards entered Yale University in 1716 (yes — if you do the math, that means he was 13) and graduated as class valedictorian four years later. At school he dove into studies of philosophy, natural sciences, psychology, and theology, seeking to intertwine them into a comprehensive view of reality called metaphysics. Rather than allowing the “secular sciences” to pull him away from God (as many of his counterparts did), Edwards saw the study of the universe as providing further evidence of God’s master plan.

Fast forward about a decade: in 1727 he was ordained in Northampton, Massachusetts, as an assistant pastor to his grandfather Rev. Solomon Stoddard, and married Sarah Pierpont (incidentally, the daughter of Yale University’s founder). Two years later, he became senior pastor in Northampton when his grandfather died. He dove headfirst into the role, especially when it came to his preaching. He, like many other “young upstart” preachers of the time, firmly believed that for sermons to have the most effect on listeners, they needed to incorporate emotional content as well as intellectual — in other words, they needed to touch the heart as well as the mind. Perhaps the best-known example of his homiletic style is his 1741 sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” in which (among other images) he likens humans to spiders dangling by the thinnest thread over the fires of hell.

But I get ahead of myself. During the winter of 1734-1735, Edwards’ work with the young adults of the Northampton church sparked a revival that quickly spread to surrounding New England towns. By 1735 the fervor had died down and Edwards had gained a few critics, but in 1741 the fire was rekindled when he teamed up with George Whitefield, an English Anglican preacher who gained the nickname “The Grand Itinerant” from his numerous trips throughout the American colonies. (The nickname was well deserved: in one year’s time, Whitefield traveled more than 5,000 miles on horseback, preached over 350 times, and was personally seen by over one quarter of the colonial population of the time. Many scholars argue that he was the first American celebrity.) This time, the revival wasn’t just a local phenomenon; not only did revival sweep from Georgia to Maine, but it kicked off a spiritual revitalization back in England and other Protestant European countries, as well.

This movement, which came to be known as the First Great Awakening, dramatically transformed the way that Protestant Christian faith was and is understood and practiced. Until this point, religious involvement was largely considered to be a passive event; people would come to church, sit in the pew, and quietly listen to passionless, intellectual discourse (which would typically have little to no bearing on how they lived their lives the other six days of the week). Now, with these “new light” preachers inviting and encouraging them to take the messages of the Bible to heart, lay men and women began reading and discussing their Bibles at home and realizing that it had something to say to them when and where they were.

Evangelists during the Great Awakening emphasized personal spiritual conversion by God’s grace, rather than mere religious participation in the institutional church, as the defining mark of a true Christian. (Take a look at George Whitefield’s sermon “On Regeneration” if you’re interested in seeing how this theology is laid out.) This personal experience of faith led to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the role each individual person has to play in the life of the family, the community, and even the nation; while American history textbooks often say that the “democratic ideals” held by the Founding Fathers came from ancient Greece, these ideals were largely ushered in by the messages of individual responsibility and agency through God’s saving grace that were preached and received during the Great Awakening.

At this point in my blog entry I’ve just about hit my word limit, but I’ve barely scratched the surface of the fascinating story and powerful impact of Jonathan Edwards. Hopefully, though, I’ve whetted your appetite and you’d like to learn more. I encourage you to attend Dr. Piper’s April 23rd talks (at 11:00 and 1:00, both at ATO Chapel) — but you can also check out the following library resources:

Print Books:
Selected Writings of Jonathan Edwards prince Jonathan Edwards and the American Experience Formed for the Glory of God The Theology of Jonathan Edwards

E-Books:
God is a Communicative Being Jonathan Edwards and Justification by Faith The Excellency of Christ Jonathan Edwards' Theology Jonathan Edwards on Justification

See you in ATO on April 23rd!

Sources:

“Jonathan Edwards: Biography.” Available online at http://edwards.yale.edu/research/about-edwards/biography.

“People & Ideas: George Whitefield.” Available online at http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/people/george-whitefield.html.

“People & Ideas: Jonathan Edwards.” Available online at http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/people/jonathan-edwards.html.

Piper, John. “A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: Why We Need Jonathan Edwards 300 Years Later.” Available online at http://www.desiringgod.org/conference-messages/a-god-entranced-vision-of-all-things-why-we-need-jonathan-edwards-300-years-later.

Piper, John. “The Pastor as Theologian: Life and Ministry of Jonathan Edwards.” Available online at http://www.desiringgod.org/biographies/the-pastor-as-theologian.


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The History Behind Black History Month

Every year on January 31, the standing U.S. president issues an official proclamation calling all of us Americans to gather together during the month of February to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans to our nation’s heritage and history. But if you’re like me, you may not quite be sure how this commemoration got its start. So, being the inquisitive type that I am, I did some digging and came across the story of a fascinating individual: Carter Godwin Woodson.

Carter G. Woodson

Carter G. Woodson

Woodson was born in Virginia on December 19, 1875, the first of nine children to former slaves James and Eliza Woodson. The family moved to West Virginia when his father learned that a high school for Black students was being built. Carter was a bright youth, but instead of focusing on educational pursuits he worked as a sharecropper and a miner to help his family make ends meet. He finally got his chance to attend high school at the age of 20 — and was such an apt student that he was able to complete a four-year degree in under two.

While pursuing a Bachelor’s degree from Berea College in Kentucky, he taught in a school founded by Black coal miners for the purpose of educating their children. After graduating from Berea he attended the University of Chicago, where he earned both another Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in European history. After serving as a school superintendent in the Philippines for four years, he returned to academia; the next steps in his educational journey took him to the Sorbonne in Paris and to Harvard University, where in 1912 he became the second African American in the school’s history (after W.E.B. Du Bois) to earn a PhD.

In all his studies, though, he kept noticing a glaring defect: central events and contributions of Negroes (as they were then called) to the American story were either misrepresented or missing altogether. Thus, he devoted the rest of his life to the incorporation of the African-American experience into the grand sweep of America’s history. In 1915 he helped to found the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (today known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History), with the mission of publicizing and celebrating the cultural contributions of African Americans. In 1916 he started the scholarly Journal of Negro History (today the Journal of African American History), and in 1920 he formed Associated Publishers Press, which would serve as a clearing house for African American-authored publications. He himself was also a prolific writer, authoring over a dozen books and many more journal articles.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

Black History Month was kickstarted in 1926 when Woodson lobbied various schools and organizations to dedicate a week to the emphasis and celebration of African American history. He chose the second week of February to be “Negro History Week,” to coincide with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass. As the celebration of Negro History Week grew, Woodson created the Negro History Bulletin, as well as elementary and secondary school curriculum, to assist educators in their task. Woodson died in 1950, but in 1976, on the 50th anniversary of the first Negro History Week and as part of America’s Bicentennial, the US government officially recognized its expansion to encompass the entire month of February. Since then, the celebration of Black History Month has also spread to Great Britain and Canada.

The many contributions of African Americans to the history and culture of the United States simply can’t be overlooked — if you’re interested in digging into the work of some notable African American writers and artists, check out the following titles (which, trust me, merely scratch the surface):

Happy reading, and happy Black History Month!