By Robyn Wheeler Grange for the Argonne African American
Employee Resource Group

University of Chicago graduate Carter G. Woodson introduced the first celebration of Negro History Week in Chicago in February 1926. As a historian, he believed that American history could not be fully understood without studying the contributions of African Americans. Negro History Week would provide the context in which to highlight their accomplishments and their central role in history.

“Father of Black History” Image of Carter G. Woodson, Ph.D. provided courtesy of Wikipedia

He chose February for the commemoration to build on the pre-existing birthday celebrations of Abraham Lincoln (February 12th) and Frederick Douglass (February 14th). By doing so, he encouraged the extension of Black history beyond these two men to include the countless Black men and women who contributed to advance the nation specifically, and human civilization in general. Woodson’s idea was embraced across the country in schools and with the public. Teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils, Black history clubs sprang up, and as Black populations grew in cities, mayors issued Negro History Week proclamations.

As Black pride and identity increased in the late 1960s and early 1970s, President Gerald Ford responded by officially recognizing Black History Month. He called upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Today, this month-long celebration is embraced by other countries such as the Netherlands, Ireland, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Each nation joins America by recognizing and honoring African people’s contributions to their history.

Woodson’s effort provides a powerful example of two of the core values we embrace at Argonne, Impact and Respect. His work has significantly transformed the way people think about African American history and fostered appreciation and respect for the contributions of African Americans to our nation.

The original intent of this month-long commemoration has not been fully realized. That is because Woodson never viewed Black history as a one-week or one-month matter. Woodson believed that African American history was too important to America and the world to be crammed into a limited time frame. So, he pressed for schools to use Negro History Week to demonstrate what students learned all year and established African American studies programs to reach adults throughout the year. Ultimately, his real intention was for there to be a time when an annual acknowledgment would no longer be necessary but rather, the study and celebration of African American history would be integrated into the fabric of our nation.

In recognition of Woodson’s real intent, the Argonne African American Employee Resource Group encourages everyone to regularly explore the contributions of all Americans to our national success story.


Please feel free to visit these resources to learn more:

Carter G. Woodson –

Association for the Study of African American Life and History (established by Woodson in 1915) –

History behind Black History Month –

Black History Month Events –

The AAA-ERG welcomes Valerie Taylor

Hello all,

Please join us on Tuesday, February 8 at 11:30 am for a special meeting where we welcome Argonne’s own Valerie Taylor to share her experiences.

Taylor, director for the Mathematics and Computer Science Division, will discuss the people and events that inspired her STEM career, keys to a successful national laboratory career, and her position as CEO for the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT. 

Taylor is an IEEE Fellow and an ACM Fellow and has received numerous awards for distinguished research and leadership.

There will be a question-and-answer session following the presentation.

For more information, please contact the AAA-ERG (email link).

Join on Microsoft Teams. (We know how schedules are. If you want us to add you to the OutLook invitation, let us know!)

Argonne African American Employee Resource Group (AAA-ERG)

[email protected]

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday celebrated each year on the third Monday of January.  The celebration honors the birth, life, and dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only national holiday designated as a National Day of Service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. To support this effort, schools, libraries, and most federal/state offices will be closed.

A time to remember the injustices against which King fought, the day is also a time to remember his fight for freedom, equality, and dignity of all races and peoples through nonviolence.  Martin Luther King Jr. spent his time helping to define and create this culture, a person can see this fabric in Argonne’s core values of Impact, Respect, Integrity, and Teamwork.

History of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

King was a clergyman and civil-rights leader.  He became minister of the Dexter Ave. Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama in 1954 and led the boycott of segregated city bus lines in 1956. King gained a major victory as a civil-rights leader when Montgomery buses began to desegregate.

King organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which provided a foundation to pursue additional civil-rights activities in the South and later nationwide.  King’s philosophy of nonviolent resistance resulted in numerous arrests in the 1950s and 60s. A 1963 protest in Birmingham, Alabama earned him worldwide attention.

In August of 1963, King brought together more than 200,000 people on the March on Washington where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  In 1964, at the age of 35, King was the youngest man, and only the third Black man, to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Famous quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

 “People should not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

 “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

As King’s notoriety grew, so did his interests in openly criticizing the Vietnam War and speaking out about

On April 4, 1968, Dr. the conditions of those living in poverty.  A planned Poor People’s March to Washington in 1968 was paused in order to support striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.

King was shot and killed as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

Almost immediately after his death, calls for a national holiday in his honor began.  Beginning in 1970, several states and cities made his birthday, January 15, a holiday.  Congressman John Conyers and Senator Edward Brooke introduced legislation to establish a federal holiday in his name in the face of fierce racial and political opposition.

On November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law and the holiday was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is usually celebrated with marches and parades and with speeches by civil rights and political leaders.  Individuals and organizations also undertake volunteer efforts in support of what is often called the MLK Day of Service.

The Argonne African American Employee Resource Group encourages everyone to participate in this day of service for the betterment of their communities.

(Photo: KNWA)

By Scott A. Ehling, CELS – Project Manager, Strategic Initiatives

Kwanzaa Celebration of Family and Culture

What is Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa is a week-long (December 26 – January 1) African American holiday to celebrate family, community, and culture. Dr. Maulana Karenga Professor of PAN-African Studies at California State Long Beach, CA, founded the Kwanzaa celebration in 1966, in the aftermath of the Watts Riots Black Freedom Movements.

The name Kwanzaa is derived from a Swahili phrase, “matunda ya kwanza,” which means “first fruits” (harvest). Kwanzaa was not created to give people an alternative to their religion or religious holidays but to reaffirm and restore our African culture’s rootedness. Most Kwanzaa celebrations are based on the seven principles (Nguzo Saba) and seven symbols. Every day of the celebration, the family lights one candle and focuses on one of the principles in conjunction with one of the symbols.

The Seven Principles:

  • Unity (Umoja): Striving for and maintaining unity in the family and the community
  • Self-Determination (Kujichagulia): Defining oneself and speaking for oneself
  • Collective Work and Responsibility (Ujima): Building and maintaining a community and making our brother’s and sister’s problems our own and solve them together
  • Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa): Building and maintaining our businesses for ourselves and each other
  • Purpose (Nia): To build and develop our collective communities together
  • Creativity (Kuumba): To do whatever we can to leave our communities more beautiful than when we inherited them
  • Faith (Imani): To believe with our hearts in our people, our families, and the righteousness of our struggle
(image courtesy of*/happy-kwanzaa-2020-template-design)


The Seven Symbols:

Kwanzaa celebrations usually include a special mat called a mkeka in which all the other symbols are placed. On this mat are placed a candle holder called a kinara, seven candles which are collectively called Mishumaa Saba, mazao (fruits, nuts, and vegetables), a unity cup called Kikombe cha Umoja, an ear of corn called vibunzi and zawadi or gifts. (



Why is Kwanzaa important? 

As I began to learn more about celebrating Kwanzaa for this AAA-ERG Blog post, I continued to ask myself this very question.

The phrase “cultural connectedness” is the quality and quantity of a person’s connection to others that is at the heart of the Kwanzaa celebration. If you want to make positive changes in a community or even a diverse workplace like Argonne, it starts with ensuring your culture aligns with your values.

Kwanzaa’s seven principles and Argonne’s Core Values share the commitment to building a culture of collaboration, integrity, creativity, and making a positive impact on common goals. In addition, the guiding principles of Kwanzaa emphasize the value of the relationship for how family unity is a bridge for stronger communities which leads to developing a positive and fruitful culture of togetherness.

For more information about Kwanzaa:



AAA-ERG welcomes Argonne’s first Walter Massey Fellow

Join the Argonne African American Employee Resource Group (AAA-ERG) on December 10 at 11:00 am as we welcome Argonne’s first Walter Massey Fellow, Kevin Brown!

Paul Kearns and former laboratory director Walter Massey (1979-1984) will join us as we hear from Kevin Brown about the research that garnered him this prestigious honor and the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The Walter Massey Fellowship is named for the first African-American to serve as Argonne’s director. Massey  also went on to serve as director of the National Science Foundation. He has also been president of Morehouse College — his alma mater — as well as chairman of Bank of America and president and chancellor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The idea for the Walter Massey Fellowship originated in the AAA-ERG, and is an example of the many ways that the Laboratory has partnered with its employee resource groups to advance diversity, equity and inclusion at the lab.

Please join us for a special conversation welcoming Argonne’s first Walter Massey Fellow.

To join from a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android click this URL to join:


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