Discover the Y’s Connection to Black History Month

February is Black History Month. As a part of celebrating, the Summit Area YMCA invites all YMCA staff, volunteers, members and the community to join us in various activities to learn about the significance of Black History Month and important figures that pioneered the way for others today. Did you know that Black History Month has roots associated with the YMCA? 

Discover the Y’s Connection to Black History Month

In 1915, Carter G. Woodson (see below), a University of Chicago alumnus, arrived in Chicago to attend a national celebration of the 50th anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the state of Illinois.

Inspired by this three-week celebration where thousands of African Americans had travelled from across the country to see exhibits that highlighted the progress of their people since the end of slavery, Woodson met at the Wabash Avenue YMCA in Chicago with a small group and formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASALH). This began the foundation that would create Negro History and Literature Week, renamed Negro Achievement Week, later Negro History Week and eventually Black History Month.

Black History Month is now an annual observance originating in the United States. The name change and month long celebration was proposed by African-American educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. The first celebration of Black History Month took place at Kent State a year later, from January 2 to February 28, 1970.

Six years later, Black History Month was being celebrated all across the country in educational institutions and culture and community centers when President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month in 1976, during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial. He urged Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."


According to and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the Black History Month 2023 theme, “Black Resistance” explores how “African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms and police killings,” since the nation's earliest days.

Here at the Y, we practice healthy living and celebrate the achievements in health and wellness throughout the centuries in our daily work. With the knowledge and work by done by these medical and wellness practitioners throughout Black history, our healthcare and medical resources would not be as they are today. 


1. Honor African-American Figures and Educational Institutions

The history of the YMCA–like the United States–is a story of incremental progress toward greater inclusion and equity for all. As we celebrate Black History, we honor the stories of Black leaders who helped move the Y, and America, forward. Learn about iconic leaders, activists, sports players, musicians, and inventors that set precedents in history and paved the way for an inclusive and diverse present and future. Read up and into dive into the accomplishments and achievements of these figures around our YMCA.

2. Explore Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and historically black fraternities & sororities in the United States.

HBCUs were institutions of higher education in the United States that were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the intention of primarily serving the African-American community and were established to provide opportunities to African Americans and are largely responsible for establishing and expanding the African-American middle class. The Y's Achievers program, a career and college preparation program that motivates and encourages young adults, had the opportunity to tour HBCUs in the past to teach our young leaders about the importance of black history and how to practice leadership, teamwork, and inclusion.

3. WE WEAR BLACK - Every Friday in February

The Y's African American Resource Network (AARN) cast a vision in 2020, as a response to the societal awakening to systemic racism, imploring all Ys to become anti-racist, multicultural organizations that intentionally lead and boldly model diverse and inclusive cultures that impact and strengthen the foundations of our communities.

We invite you to join us for We Wear Black, every Friday, throughout the month of February. We wear black to celebrate Black History and our community. We wear black to show our stance against injustice. We wear black as a symbol of hope, awareness, and togetherness. We wear black to share our commitment to inclusion and equity for all. We Wear Black to bring awareness to systemic racism and oppression of Black people in the United States and around the globe.



Through welcoming, inclusive practices and environments, the Summit Area YMCA welcomes and engaged people from all diverse groups of the community to help and create lasting, meaningful change. We at the Y realize that in order to better the world around us and for the future, we must unite and work towards the strengthening of the individual in mind, body and spirit.

So join us in celebrating and honoring Black History Month at the Y, in the community, and in your daily lives.

If you would like to get involved by volunteering, donating to a local cause, or to partner with the Summit Area YMCA for a new program or event, please contact Tiffany Escott, Summit Area YMCA - Mission Advancement and Development Director, at

Questions? Contact:


Trevor Cromwell

Senior Youth & Teen Coordinator
(908 )273-3330  




Tiffany Escott

Mission Advancement and Development Director
(908) 464-8373





In 1886, we were founded as the Young Men's Christian Association, but today, we are The Y. An association that values, and is made stronger by, its diverse people. We stand for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility — For a better us. We are committed to creating equal opportunity for all regardless of gender, age, disability, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religious affiliation. We strive to create a welcoming and inclusive culture in which our four core values — responsibility, honesty, caring and respect — are integral to everyday operations.

Each year, as one of the area’s leading 501(c)3 charitable organizations, the Summit Area YMCA serves more than 15,000 individuals with our free and fee-based programs and services in an area spanning the New Jersey communities of Berkeley Heights, Gillette, Millburn, New Providence, Short Hills, Springfield, Stirling and Summit. Our history is rooted in working side-by-side with our neighbors to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. Through the generosity of our members, donors, and partners, we are able to offer financial assistance for our programs and services to those in need.