The idea of Black History Month began in 1915, but it was not officially recognized until 1976 under President Gerald Ford.
Since then, the month of February has been designated as the month for recognizing the achievements of the African American community as well as the impact African Americans have had on United States history.
The Office of Diversity kicked off Black History Month by screening the historical drama, “The Birth of a Nation” in the Mara Auditorium on Wednesday, February 1. Popcorn and beverages were free for the taking.
The film tells the story of Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher in the 19th century. Turner was called upon to preach to unruly slaves across the state. While doing so, he witnessed numerous atrocities, including the merciless beating of his wife.
Angered by all he had seen, Turner united with other slaves and planned a large-scale rebellion against slave owners across Virginia. After two days of advancement, in which roughly sixty white men and women were killed, the rebellion was suppressed and Turner was hanged.
The rebellion, which frightened many white Virginians, is considered to be the largest sustained slave revolt in U.S. History.
The event was hosted by Michael Reeves, director of Diversity Programs. “We really wanted to have a balance between current and past events,” said Reeves. “I think black history is American history, and it’s important to recognize the struggles that occurred.”
The film was incredibly powerful and intense, as well as heartbreaking. It also did an excellent job of bringing awareness to a very unsettling time in American history.
Actor Nate Parker, who portrayed Nat Turner, gave a very convincing and dramatic performance. Parker also served as the director of the film.