Black History Month at the fort

From Africa to Civil War America to World War II, Historic Fort Steuben will cover a wide range of years and experiences during its annual Black History Month programs.

As part of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Historic Fort Steuben is again offering an exhibit dedicated to the issues, events and people involved in that momentous conflict.

Entitled “Civil War: The African American Experience,” the exhibit includes informational panels and material describing the history of slavery and emancipation through the wartime years, the men from Ohio who served in the U.S. Colored Troops, the educators and leaders who worked with the emancipated slaves and the black men from Ohio who earned the Medal of Honor.

The exhibit will be on display Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. beginning Tuesday and continuing through Feb. 22 in the exhibit hall of the Fort Steuben Visitor Center.

“Black soldiers were not initially welcomed in the military, but when they finally were accepted, they served with distinction in a number of battles,” explained Judy Bratten, executive director of Historic Fort Steuben. “The heroism exhibited by the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers was memorably dramatized in the film Glory. Much less well-known are the stories of the civilians who worked with the military and the emancipated slaves who were thrown into a new world. We hope this exhibit will open a window into that tumultuous time.”

The focus will shift to Africa for the 2013 Black History Month Film Festival, sponsored by Historic Fort Steuben and Labelle Neighbors Who Care on Feb. 16 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entitled “Africa: What We Didn’t Learn in School, and What You Don’t See on TV,” the featured films include a children’s film – “Stories from the Black Tradition” – as well as an award-winning drama, “Sankofa,” and a film on the contributions of Africans, “Hidden Colors.” A Taste of Africa, a presentation by a guest speaker, and the announcement of the Black History Month Essay Contest winners also are on schedule for that day.

Organized by Asantewa Anyabwile and sponsored by the JFK Memorial Committee and Franciscan University of Steubenville, the Black History Month Essay Contest is open to students from grades one through 12 with cash prizes for winners and gift cards for all entrants.

Entry forms can be obtained on the website, or at the Fort Steuben Visitor Center. The deadline for entries is Feb. 11. For information on the Film Festival and Essay Contest, call (740) 346-9925.

Finally, Historic Fort Steuben will offer a tribute to the African-Americans who served in the Army Air Corps in World War II.

Called the Tuskegee Airmen because they received their training at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, these men served as pilots, navigators, bombardiers, instructors and maintenance staff and were essential to the war effort. On Feb. 22 at 3 p.m., Deborah Keith of Maryland will give a presentation on her uncles, Jerome and John “Ellis” Edwards, Steubenville natives who served in the prestigious corps. Ambrose Bolling of Weirton also will present information on some of the deeds of the airmen, several of whom are still alive.

All programs are at the Fort Steuben Visitor Center at 120 S. Third St., Steubenville, and are open to the public. Donations are welcome. For information call Historic Fort Steuben, 740-283-1787.