On Sept. 26, the Association for the Study of African Life and History will bring their annual meeting to Pittsburgh. The theme of the 97th annual event will be “Black Women in American Culture and History.”

“This is our 97th annual conference and the purpose of the conference is to bring together scholars and individuals in the community who promote history and to have a venue where new scholarship is presented to the public and the academic world as well as special events that highlight history,” said Sylvia Cyrus, ASALH executive director.


The conference, which is expected to draw 1000 guests, has approximately 180 different events over the course of five days, from Sept. 26-30. Special guests will include Shirley Sherrod, former Georgia state director of rural development for the United States Department of Agriculture, who was forced to resign in response to comments she made during a NAACP meeting.

ASALH was founded in 1915 by Carter G. Woodson, an African-American historian, author and journalist. The organization’s mission is “to promote, research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community.”

“We have been at the forefront of making sure the contributions of African-Americans have been accurately documented and promoted,” Cyrus said. “Most of the information that is printed about African-American history is in some way impacted by our organization. If you took ASALH out of the equation, most of the information about African-Americans would disappear. Our publications are very important.”

Throughout ASALH’s week in Pittsburgh, the organization will engage the community with free activities around the city. These include an event at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture and a youth day at Perry High School.

“Pittsburgh has a wealth of African-American history that we wanted to share,” Cyrus said. “Also our national president (James Stewart) lives in the area so when you add that all in together, with Pittsburgh just being a great place with stories to tell, it made it a great place for 2012.”

While here, ASALH will charter a new Pittsburgh chapter of the organization named for Edna MacKenzie, a Pittsburgh Courier reporter, historian, author, and professor-emeritus of history at Community College of Allegheny County. The chartering of a new chapter marks another level of growth for the organization.

“We have approximately 50 branches in cities across the country and we’ll be chartering a local branch. We’ve grown internationally. I think we’re on a really great trajectory,” said ASALH President James Stewart who resides in Pittsburgh.

ASALH is responsible for the establishment of Black History month, which was originally termed Negro History Week when it was founded in 1926. The organization has been tasked with determining the theme of Black History Month each year and the theme this year focusing on women, is carried into their annual conference.

“Black women have really been the bedrock of African-American life and culture since we were brought to these shores,” Stewart said. “Black women were the keepers of family tradition, and if we look at, today, Black women are moving into a number of leadership positions quite rapidly”.

For more information on the conference visit http://www.asalh.org.

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