February 2013

February 2013

Ashford University is proud to show you our PAWs. That is, our Promoting Awareness and Wellness initiative! Every month, we'll highlight different causes and opportunities that reflect the values of the University. You'll also learn ways that you can participate or be more involved.


Martin Luther King. Jr.'s impact on human rights is immeasurable.

February is the month designated to celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans in the United States; a time we recognize and honor those who have championed the cause of equality and acceptance. Since President Ford first issued a message of observance of Black History Month in 1976, the celebration has grown to what it is today: a month-long recognition not only observed by the United States, but also in Canada and the United Kingdom (Black History Month, n.d.).

Each year, a unique theme is chosen for Black History Month. These themes focus on recognizing groups of people, highlighting specific cultural observances, and remembering historic events. The 2012 theme was “Black Women in American Culture and History,” and next year’s theme will be “The Golden Jubilee of the Civil Rights Act.” For 2013, the theme has been designated as “The 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington” (What are the themes, n.d.).

This issue of PAWs will examine some key moments in Black history, as well as spotlight two of the many African Americans who have immeasurably enriched our society’s culture.

The Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation was the result of the work of President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, while the United States was in the throes of the Civil War. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the proclamation. While the proclamation declared that slaves were free, there were a few stipulations and contingencies that are less well-known. According to archives.gov, “It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal Border States. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory” (The Emancipation Proclamation, n.d.) Even with these setbacks, the spirit of the emancipation is what is forever remembered and celebrated.

March on Washington

In addition to honoring the Emancipation Proclamation, this year’s Black History month also celebrates another more contemporary milestone in the fight for equality: the 1963 March on Washington. On August 28, 1963, more than a quarter of a million activists came to the nation’s capital to speak out against social injustices. And while many people are familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the details of what became the largest peaceful demonstration in the history of the United States should not be overlooked.

The march was first conceived by A. Phillip Randolph; a civil rights activist who had fought for economic equality for years. Organizing the event was no easy task. While every civil rights group fought for social justice, not all of them agreed upon the best way of promoting equal rights. Leaders of groups often competed for media coverage and for funding to further their causes. It was clear that cooperation of “The Big Six” would be needed to achieve Randolph’s goal of bringing like-minded agents of change together in our nation’s capital. The Big Six consisted of leaders of the major civil rights organizations active during the height of the movement, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Congress of Racial Equality, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, The Urban League, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. While bringing together so many individuals was a daunting task, eventually Randolph prevailed. Randolph, with the help of his associate Bayard Rustin, established offices in Harlem, NY and Washington. And, with only two months to plan, they were able to successfully organize the largest peaceful demonstration in our nation’s history. The event was highlighted by the now famous “I Have a Dream” speech and culminated in a meeting with President John F. Kennedy (100 Milestone Documents, n.d.)

View Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the most widely recognized speeches of all time.

Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong

Louis Armstrong, considered by many to be the greatest jazz musician of all time, was born August 4, 1901. Growing up in New Orleans, Armstrong started working at a young age to help contribute financially to his household. What started as singing on street corners for pennies would later transform into a successful career as a prominent figure in the jazz movement. While his career had humble beginnings, he was eventually introduced to Joe “King” Oliver, who was already established as a pioneer in the world of jazz, and ended up becoming Louis Armstrong’s teacher and mentor.

It was this collaboration that ultimately led to Armstrong moving to New York in 1924, where he dedicated himself to his music, and worked diligently to become the best. He landed his first appearance on Broadway in 1929. It was after that appearance that Armstrong became recognized and became a recording artist who performed across the United States. Armstrong was the defining factor in jazz and is known today for his influence in the jazz world. He was spontaneous, joyful, and demonstrated techniques that shocked and amazed everyone who had the opportunity to hear him play.

Watch Armstrong perform “When the Saints go Marching In.”

Armstrong, who passed away in 1971, lived a life that impacted jazz and African American history significantly. Up until days before his death, he was rehearsing and setting up performances to do what he loved most: perform (Jazz: A film, n.d.).

For more information on Louis Armstrong check out these sites:

Red Hot Jazz - Louis Armstrong

PBS Biographies - Louis Armstrong

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald, June 3, 1906, in St. Louis, MO. At the age of 13, Josephine worked as a waitress to help support herself and her family. By 1919, she had performed various comical skits with the Jones Family Band and the Dixie Steppers. It seems that, even at such a young age, Josephine knew that her destiny was to be on stage. While recognized for her acting, Josephine was also a talented singer and dancer. In fact, of her performing abilities, it was her dancing that she became famous for. Although she enjoyed her success as a Vaudeville performer, Josephine eventually took her many talents to France, where she became an almost overnight success, and an inspiration to artists like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Pablo Picasso.

During World War II, while entertaining troops, Josephine realized that her status as an entertainer might benefit France. She used her traveling routine to distribute information to allies through invisible ink on her music and notes attached to her clothing. After the war she was honored for her assistance with the presentation of the Medal of Resistance. Not only did Josephine give back to her country of residence, she also gave back to the community by adopting children from all over the world. Her children were often referred to as “The Rainbow Tribe” (Josephine Baker, 2012.).

Josephine Baker lived a full life and was as famous for her activism as she was for her performances. For more information check out the Official Site of Josephine Baker

Celebrating Diversity

The contributions of these individuals are two of countless examples of the positive impact that African Americans have had on our country. While we are unable to celebrate every educator, artist, political figure, and advocate for social justice in this small space, we hope that their stories of triumph over adversity have inspired you.

For more information on Black History/African American History Month, visit the NAACP site.


Ashford University Alumni Spotlight - Gwendolyn Bates
Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Management
Master of Business Administration, Entrepreneurship specialization, 2012

Gwendolyn Bates has always been entrepreneurial. With her first attempt at operating her own business, she had no shortage of clients and plenty of orders to fulfill. But because she didn’t have enough capital, Gwendolyn ended up having to shut down the business.

So, for her next business venture, she decided to better prepare herself by enrolling at Ashford University and earning not only a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Management, but also a Master of Business Administration with a specialization in Entrepreneurship.

Gwendolyn is now in the process of launching her private label accessory and cosmetic company, G-Fash. “The degrees have given me greater professionalism and self-confidence in owning and operating a business.”

In addition to her many duties as a fledgling business owner, this busy mom is also the financial officer at her children’s elementary school, a PTA board member, and a military spouse who serves as Ombudsman over eight Naval bases in San Diego. Due to the latter role, she was nominated to sign an educational proclamation at the Pentagon for the Career Advancement Initiative, which offered military spouses grants to go back to school.

She looks back on her time at Ashford fondly. “The instructors at Ashford offered me valuable advice and were always accessible when needed, my classmates offered their own experiences that I could apply in my professional life, and the curriculum was outstanding,” she reflects. “The online platform and the technology behind it were easy to use. I felt in control of my education.”

“Ashford has given me self-assurance in reorganizing my company to operate it with assertiveness and poise. I also feel that with the degrees, I am more credible and competent. I feel distinguished and accomplished as an Ashford alumna.”


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Jazz: a Film By Ken Burns: Selected artist biography – Louis Armstrong. (n.d.). Retreived on Nov 1, 2012 from

Josephine Baker, Harlem’s renaissance. (2012). Retrieved on November 1, 2012 from:

Louis Armstrong. (n.d.). Retreived on Nov 1, 2012 from

The Official Josephine Baker website. (n.d.). Retreived on Nov 1, 2012 from

Official program for the March on Washington. (n.d.) Retrieved from:

What are the Themes for African-American History Month 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015? (n.d.). Retrieved on October 15, 2012 from

100 milestone documents (n.d.). Retrieved on January 28, 2013 from: