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ASALH Luncheon Features Berry, Honors Luminaries

2/27/2013, 11 a.m.

The nation's leading African-American organization, whose mission is to study and promote black history, hosted an event that featured a keynote speaker who put into perspective one of America's most revered documents and honored female leaders for their countless contributions.

Mary Frances Berry, a noted historian at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, served as the keynote speaker at the 87th Annual Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) Black History Luncheon on Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Northwest. Berry said that despite the jubilant mood that blacks feel in light of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, she doesn't think there's much to celebrate.

"It was not the Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery, it was the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that did that," Berry said. "Lincoln was not an abolitionist. He did it to save the Union and he stated that the Emancipation Proclamation was a 'fit and necessary war measure.'"

Berry's insightful remarks are a reflection of the members of ASALH, which was founded in Chicago on Sept. 9, 1915 and incorporated in the District on Oct. 2, 1915 as the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History by Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland.

ASALH is based in Northwest and is credited for the creation of Negro History Week in February of 1926 and in 1976, the organization expanded the celebration to include the entire month.

Berry, 75, counted among one of the 21 "2013 Living Legacy Awardees" honored for their outstanding achievements during the three-hour afternoon affair. Other honorees included NAACP Chairman of the Board Roslyn Brock of Elkridge, Md.; University of the District of Columbia professor Margaret Moore; Olivia Hooker, a survivor of the 1920 Tulsa Race Riots; psychologist Minnijean Brown Trickey, one of the first students to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., in 1957; Naomi Long Madgett, poet laureate of Detroit and Consolee Nishimwe, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus in 1994.

The audience watched a 10-minute video sent by first lady Michelle Obama. Afterward, Suzan Johnson Cook, the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, presenteda White Houseproclamationto Sylvia Cyrus, the executive director of ASALH.

"We must march until victory is won," Cook, 55, told guests who attended the luncheon.

Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman unveiled the "Emancipation Proclamation" stamp which features the artisanship of stamp designer Gail Anderson. Stroman said that the stamp represents an historic benchmark in American history and one that should never be given short shrift.

"We must never forget the indignities of days gone by," he said.

Dr. Andrew Ray, the grand basileus of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., of Decatur, Ga., donated $10,000 to ASALH. Ray said that Omega and ASALH share a common bond - one that will never be severed.

"Carter G. Woodson belongs to Omega," he said. "Our contribution is to support the legacy that he started and we will continue to do this in the future."