Association for the Study of African American Life and History

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The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) is an organization dedicated to the study and appreciation of African-American History. It is a non-profit organization founded in Chicago, Illinois, on September 9, 1915 and incorporated in Washington, D.C. on October 2, 1915 as the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) by Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland. The association is based in Washington, D.C. ASNLH was renamed the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History in 1973.

ASALH's official mission is "to promote, research, preserve, interpret, and disseminate information about Black life, history, and culture to the global community."[1]

ASALH's official vision is " to be the premier Black Heritage and learned society with a diverse and inclusive membership supported by a strong network of national and international branches to continue the Woodson legacy."[1]

ASALH created Negro History Week in 1926. Woodson selected the week to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Each year, Woodson established a national theme for the celebration. Since 1976, ASALH extended the celebration for the entire month of February.

The organization publishes The Journal of African American History (formerly The Journal of Negro History), and the Black History Bulletin (formerly the Negro History Bulletin). In 2005, ASALH established the ASALH Press, reissuing Carter G. Woodson's Mis-Education of the Negro. The same year ASALH established The Woodson Review, a magazine that promotes its Annual Black History Theme, including it as part of its Black History Kit. In 2005, ASALH discovered a previously unpublished manuscript by its founder, Carter G. Woodson, and published it in a special edition as Carter G. Woodson's Appeal: The Lost Manuscript Edition.

ASALH is a membership organization with over twenty-five branches.

ASALH Conventions

Annually the organization strives to continue its research focus as well as efforts to share and disseminate historical information—for which the organization was founded.[2] One of the major ways the organization focuses it resources in this area is with the ASALH annual convention that takes place in the fall (usually September or October.) ASALH hosted its first convention in 1917, two years after the organization was founded. At that time the convention was biennial. During the first convention Woodson stated the goals of the organization as he saw them. ‘The organization primary responsibilities would be the publishing of an historical magazine, researching the achievements of Negros, directing a home study program along with writing and publishing books and monographs. Charles Harris Wesley, one of the organization’s early developers, was not pleased with the first convention because more race solvers and educators attended than historians, which is in opposition to ASALH’s vision as an historical research society.’[3]

Each year, the location of the convention rotates to a major US city and coincides with the annual black history theme. The 2008 convention took place in Birmingham, AL and the 2009 convention took place in Cincinnati, OH. the 2010 convention was held in Raleigh, NC and the 2011 conference was held in Richmond, VA. The 2012 convention will be held from September 26- September 30 in Pittsburgh, PA. According to the Association, the annual convention draws over 1,000 participants.

At the convention ASALH organizes plenary sessions and workshops, facilitates scholarly presentations selected from the “Call for Papers,” sponsors a black history tour of famous landmarks in the city, and hosts a youth day for high school students in the area.

Derived organizations

Numerous organizations have risen out of the ASALH conventions. One such example is the Association of Black Women Historians (ABWH) founded at the 1977 ASALH convention in Washington, D.C. ABWH was founded by three women participants, Rosalyn Terbong-Penn, Eleanor Smith, and Elizabeth Parker.[4]

The National Council of Black Studies was also conceptualized at an ASALH convention.


  1. 1.0 1.1 American Historical Association
  2. Mjagkij, N, Organizing Black America, pg 69. Kindle Books, 2007.
  3. Harris, J: “Woodson and Wesley: A Partnership in Building the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History”, The Journal of Negro History, 83(98): 111
  4. Mjagkij, N, Organizing Black America, p. 70. Kindle Books, 2007.

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