Chicago Sinfonietta Returns to Parker to Celebrate Dr. Carter Godson Woodson

By History and Social Studies Department Co-Chair Andrew Bigelow

Around the time of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday or Black History Month, we invite the Chicago Sinfonietta to perform an annual concert. This year, the timing of the concert fell at the end of Black History Month. I saw this as an opportunity to honor the work of Dr. Carter Godson Woodson, the founding member of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH), which began at the Wabash YMCA in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood.

The mission of the Chicago Sinfonietta is quite similar to Parker’s Diversity Statement and the aspirations of the ASALH (Dr. Woodson is a founding member): “Chicago Sinfonietta is a professional orchestra dedicated to modeling and promoting diversity, inclusion, and both racial and cultural equity in the arts through the universal language of symphonic music. Our core values are built around being bold and daring in all aspects of our work, providing a source of connectivity through music, and ensuring and inspiring a continued investment in diversity and inclusion in classical music.” 

In 1926, in honor of President Lincoln’s birthday on February 12 and Frederick Douglass’ birthday on February 14, Dr. Woodson’s organization launched a Negro History Week. Eventually the organization grew and moved to Washington D.C., where it continued to promote the study of black life and history in America. Many mayors and states with predominantly African-American communities adopted this week to celebrate and emphasize an ongoing pursuit of inclusion with regard to the significance of black achievement and history in our nation’s entire existence. A black student union at Kent State University approached the organization in D.C. to turn the week into a month in 1969. In 1976, during our nation’s bicentennial, President Ford was the first president to honor and make official a Black History Month. Every president since has recognized this month to honor the legacy of President Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’ impact on America, in addition to emphasizing an ongoing study and appreciation for African-American life and history.

The Chicago Sinfonietta is an example of an inclusive environment open to all who make up the fabric of our city and our nation’s history. Their music represents African-American composers, and thus it was fitting to hear their performance as we honor Dr. Woodson and his legacy, Black History Month.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.