Bakersfield College

African-American History Month at Bakersfield College

African-American History Month 2019

Bakersfield College celebrates African American Heritage Month with numerous events on campus and participation in events in the community.

History and Resources

African American Heritage Month began as Negro History Week in 1925. Started by historian Carter G. Woodson and the organization he founded, Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), the celebration of Black history and promotion of awareness was expanded to a month in 1976. Discover more about African American Heritage Month and the importance of Black history in the development of the American nation by visiting these sites:

Events at Bakersfield College Panorama Campus

Events are brought to you by the BC African-American Initiative Committee.

Thursday, February 7th

Black Faces, Black Interests: The Representation of African Americans in Congress

10:00 AM-11:30 PM and 2:00 PM-3:30 PM | Levan Center (2 p.m. event livestreamed to Delano Campus 118)
7:00 PM-8:30 PM | Indoor Theater
Distinguished Speaker Dr. Carol M. Swain will talk about how Congress responds to issues in the African-American community. For more information about this event, visit the event description in the BC calendar.

Friday, February 8th

Black History Month Conference

09:30 AM-2:00 PM | Indoor Theater
Bakersfield College's Umoja Community ASTEP chapter celebrates Black History Month with a conference themed "Black Excellence". The keynote speaker for the event will be Reverend Dr. Charles Dorsey. For more information about this event, visit the event description in the BC calendar

Friday, February 22nd

Harlem and Beyond Presents Dr. James Chaffers

08:00 AM-12:00 PM | Indoor Theater
Local community organization Harlem and Beyond hosts Dr. James Chaffers, a Professor Emeritus of Architecture at the University of Michigan and the first African-American to receive an archeology degree. For more information about this event, visit the event description in the BC calendar.

Thursday, February 28th

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After

10:00 AM-11:30 PM and 2:00 PM-3:30 PM | Levan Center (2 p.m. event livestreamed to Delano Campus 118)
7:00 PM-8:30 PM | Indoor Theater
Distinguished Speaker Clemantine Wamariya will discuss her memoir about escaping the Rwandan genocide as a child and migrating through seven different African countries in search of safety and shelter. For more information about this event, visit the event description in the BC calendar.

Events In and Near Our Community

Friday, February 8th

CSUB Unity Breakfast

07:00 AM-8:00 AM | CSUB Residence Hall
In honor of Black History Month, this breakfast will provide an opportunity for the CSUB campus to come together, listen to an inspirational message and present the 4th annual Unity Award to a member of the CSUB campus community who exemplifies outstanding contributions in promoting diversity and collaborations. For more information, email Emily Poole at

Friday, February 9th

Allensworth Black History Month Celebration

10:00 AM-4:00 PM | Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park
Join the Friends of Allensworth as they continue to preserve Black History in Allensworth. Visitors will have the opportunity to interact with docents dressed in period attire and go on self-paced tours of the park's historic buildings. For more information, visit the Friends of Allensworth website.

Friday, February 22nd

Undercurrents of Power: Aquatic Culture in the African Diaspora

2:00 PM-5:00 PM | California State University, Bakersfield
UC Merced Associate Professor of History Kevin Dawson will host this forum about the impact of the mass dispersion of Africans around the world during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. For more information, email CSUB professor Marie Stango at

Friday, February 22nd

Jeopardy: Black History Edition

3:00 PM-5:00 PM | Holloway-Gonzales Library (506 E. Brundage Ave.)
Get your team together and showcase your black history knowledge to win free gift cards and other prizes.

Saturday, February 23rd

Black American History Parade

10:00 AM at 21 st. and V st.
Enjoy the parade and watch for Bakersfield College!

Wednesday, February 27th

Black History Month Spotlight - Panel Discussion with Black Leaders

6:00 PM-7:00 PM | University of Phoenix Bakersfield Learning Center (4900 California Avenue, Tower A, Ste. 100)
A panel discussion featuring black leaders throughout Kern County. For more information and to participate in this event, register via Eventbrite.

Bakersfield College History

1936 LeMoyne College v. BJC: First Interracial Debate

Photo of LeMoyne College debate team
(left to right) LeMoyne College Debate Coach Boris Alexander and LeMoyne students Charles Gilton and James Byas

The date is February 22, 1936. A headline in The Bakersfield Californianannounces: “FAMED LEMOYNE DEBATERS HERE: Noted Negro Forensic Team Will Meet J.C. Stars in Match This Evening.” The next day’s paper reports: “Big Throng Hears LeMoyne Debaters. An interested audience heard the non-decision debate between Bakersfield Junior College speakers and the LeMoyne College Negro debate team in the junior college lecture hall Saturday night.” The topic was “Resolved: That Congress should have the power by two-thirds majority to override decisions of the Supreme Court declaring legislation passed by Congress unconstitutional.”

LeMoyne College (LeMoyne-Owen since 1968) is in the rich tradition of “private, church-related collegesthat have historically served Black students.” Located in Memphis, Tennessee, Its roots go back to 1862. Over the years LeMoyne, as well as Bakersfield Junior College, has been known for its strong debate teams.

Dr. Elton Weaver III, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of History at LeMoyne-Owen, is currently writing a history of the LeMoyne debate program and contacted Bakersfield College to confirm the match held here. A search did indeed confirm the match with mention in the Raconteur, The Renegade Rip, and The Bakersfield Californian.

According to Dr.Weaver, “throughout the 1930s and 40s, Coach Boris Alexander arranged for African-American debaters to participate in interracial debating tours to promote good race relations between black and white college students. During the height of American Apartheid—legalized racial segregation, Professor Alexander christened his pre-Civil Rights intercollegiate and interracial tours experiments in ‘interracial Goodwill.’ ” One tour took them to the South Pacific and Australia.

We know from newspaper reports that the LeMoyne team debated in Los Angeles colleges the days before and at UC Berkeley the day after they debated in Bakersfield. In the 1936 LeMoyne College Debate Log, Coach Alexander wrote: “Feb 22. Bakersfield Junior College is one of the best debating schools in California, its representatives being in the habit of winning all its debates . . . At Bakersfield we were entertained in the house of Dr. and Mrs. George A. Landis, whose hospitality extended into Sunday afternoon.”

Actually the correct spelling of their hosts’ name is Handis. Dr. George Handis was a well-known and admired medical doctor. His wife, Lena Handis, was the first black woman employed as a social worker in Kern County and was a sought after speaker in the community. Mrs. Handis was selected to be the moderator of the debate between BJC and LeMoyne. It is interesting to note that the two LeMoyne debaters, Charles W. Gilton and James S. Byas, were sons of prominent black doctors.

In answering an inquiry about Boris Alexander, Dr. Weaver wrote: “Yes, Coach Alexander was definitely white. He sincerely loved LeMoyne College and strove to help every black student he came in contact with. . . . He was a Russian immigrant who had escaped Russia a few years after Lenin’s Bolshevik take over… [He] always taught LeMoyne students that, “The mind is thegreatest weapon.’ "

Dr. Weaver also wrote: “In my opinion, LeMoyne and Bakersfield’s positive interracial interaction illustrates both colleges’ willingness to contribute to racial equality.” Bakersfield Junior College at the time was under Miss Grace Bird’s enlightened leadership.

Kern Community College District