It’s Black History Month. So with Margaret Christian speaking on the history of African-Americans in Oberlin, everyone expected a decent turnout at the Oberlin Public Library.
No one thought attendance would double, though, as the Oberlin African-American Genealogy and History Group met.
More than 40 people squeezed into the OPL meeting room to hear Christian, a 1974 graduate of Oberlin College.
“We have seen people whose faces we haven’t seen for a long time, even ever,” OAAGHG president Annessa Wyman said. “How the publicity branched out so far, I don’t know. We have people here from Cleveland, Elyria, Lorain (in addition to the people from Oberlin). I’m very pleased with the turnout.”
Christian also celebrated the legacy of Dr. Carter Goodwin Woodson, considered by many to be the father of black history. Additionally, Christian spoke of her experiences growing up as an African-American and the struggles faced during the civil rights movement.
“If you tolerate something, it won’t change,” she said. “It’s only when you decide to not tolerate it anymore, that’s when change happens.”
Christian encouraged Oberlin residents to tour Westwood Cemetery, which is steeped in history: “You can walk with your ancestors there,” she said. “I’m not originally from Oberlin, but those who are have a wonderful opportunity.”
Christian spoke to the audience, made up of diverse races, for close to 90 minutes. She then asked audience members to share the names of African-Americans who have had an impact on their lives, which several did.
Wyman encouraged residents to embrace the significance Oberlin has had on black history.
“Oberlin is a treasure trove of history, in general,” she said. “Because of the stand the city of Oberlin took, even back in the 1800s, it just allowed for blacks to be able to use their creativity and their imagination to be able to do things that maybe would have been stifled in other areas.”
Scott Mahoney can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @sm_mahoney on Twitter.