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John W. Franklin

John W. Franklin will be the guest speaker at the annual National African American History Month service at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Carlisle. The service will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24.

John W. Franklin, director of partnerships and international programs at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, will be the guest speaker Sunday as Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church hosts its annual National African American History Month service.

Sponsored by the church’s Robert C. Gaskill Library, the 4 p.m. service Sunday, Feb. 24, is open to the public and recognizes the contributions of African-Americans who helped shape the United States. The church is at the corner of Lincoln and North West streets in Carlisle.

“It’s not just for the black community,” said Ruth E. Hodge, church librarian. “It’s to first know about ourselves, and second for all Americans to know the history of blacks who were involved in the making of America.”

Music will be provided by Milton Hershey High School’s 50-voice choir directed by Cristal Sheaffer. Proclamations from President Barack Obama and Gov. Tom Corbett will be read during the service. This year’s national theme is “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.”

Franklin, the son of the late historian John Hope Franklin, has worked on African-American, African and African Diaspora programs for the past 25 years.

He also served on the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture from 1998 to 2008, the board of the Reginald Lewis Maryland Museum of African American History and Culture from 2000 to 2009, and the board of governors of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies from 2005 to 2011. He and his father edited “My Life and an Era: the Autobiography of Buck Colbert Franklin.”

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National African-American History Month began as a week-long celebration in 1926.

“The Association for the Study of African American History was founded by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who was referred to as the father of black history,” said Hodge. “He formed the organization in 1915, and he felt it was important for all Americans to know our history. He went to Congress in 1926, and an Act of Congress established, at that time, Negro History Week, as the second week of February.”

Hodge said the association returned to Congress in 1976 during the U.S. bicentennial celebration, asking for the observance to be expanded. “That was granted, and February was Black History Month, which later became known as African-American Month,” she said. “February was chosen because Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was in February, and although Frederick Douglass did not know his birthday, he claimed it as Feb. 15.”

Hodge founded Shiloh’s Robert C. Gaskill Library as a college project while studying for her master’s degree in library science at Shippensburg University. The library is named after the first black deputy commandant at the (U.S. Army) War College.”

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