“We are not makers of history. We are made by history,” said Dr. Martin Luther King. Black History Month was first officially recognized by President Ford in 1976. Black History Month had been earlier proposed by African American students at Kent State in 1969. They, in turn, borrowed the concept from the father of African American history, Howard University’s Dr. Carter Woodson, who originated the idea in 1926. The Monrovia Duarte Black Alumni Association leads this community’s annual commemoration.
But much of Monrovia’s African American history has been lost. How can we build on yesterday’s foundation if we can’t even find the foundation? This lost history is such a detriment to our understanding of ourselves and of our community.
For example, did you know that Dr. Leonard Stovall established a 50-bed hospital in Duarte for patients of all races suffering from tuberculosis? Where exactly was this 1935 hospital? Did you know that Anna H. Jones – who died in Monrovia in 1932 – was a suffragist and a participant of the First Pan-African Congress in London? Did you know that the Black-owned Harvey Brothers Sand and Gravel Company was founded in 1908 in today’s Irwindale, and provided materials for the building of Los Angeles? Where are the papers of Monrovia’s NAACP founded by Isaac Epperson? Did you know that director Rodney Hooks was senior class president at Monrovia in 1967?
The City of Monrovia has laid claim to three of its most prominent African American citizens. The Neighborhood Treasure Project recognized Lieutenant Colonel Allen Allensworth, the first pastor of Second Baptist Church now on Shamrock. Another beautiful plaque was made for Aunt Kate Wright, a former slave who helped the indigent and the ill of Monrovia. Mayor Robert Bartlett’s likeness says “hello” to all at the Gold Line station. All three of Monrovia’s historical societies and the Duarte Historical Museum are trying their best to recover the diversity of community history. Dr. Carter Woodson would be proud.
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