Kenneth E. “Ken” Upthegrove III will be the honoreee this year at the annual Black History Month program at the Highland County District Library in Hillsboro on Feb. 18.
Upthegrove, who still lives in Washington Court House where he grew up, attended Washington Senior High and studied residential electricity at Laurel Oaks. After graduation he worked for Great Oaks Construction in a carpentry apprenticeship. After four years of training he received his certification as a journeyman carpenter.
As a young man Upthegrove began attending Heritage Memorial Church where he is still a member and has taught the Junior High Sunday School Class for over 37 years.
In 1982, Upthegrove started working for the Washington City Schools in the maintenance department where he helped remodel school buildings. He became maintenance supervisor in 1992 and during this time earned a vocational teacher degree from Wright State University.
Upthegrove was an instructor at Laurel Oaks from 1995 through 2007 where he taught construction technology courses as well as taking his students out on construction jobs. He was presented with the Outstanding Teacher Award in 1998 and retired from education in 2012.
A very busy man, Upthegrove holds the position of environmental service supervisor while serving on the Washington City Schools Board of Education, is a Rose Avenue youth leader and speaker, and is a Master Mason at Cedar Grove Lodge 17. He is married to Melissa Upthegrove, an attorney, and has three sons.
H. Scott Latimer will also speak at the program on “Being Black in America in 2017.” The Rev. Latimer is a retired Ohio Department of Natural Resources park officer who worked at Rocky Fork State Park. He is currently the pastor at the Fall Creek Friends Church.
The Black History Month program will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18 at the library in Hillsboro. Everyone is invited.
Each February the Highland County District Library and the African American Awareness Research Council present a Black History Month program to honor the lifetime achievements of an area individual or to highlight an aspect of this local community’s history.
It was Carter G. Woodson, a founder of the Association for the Study of African American History, who first came up with the idea of the celebration that became Black History Month, according to a recent Associated Press feature. Woodson, the son of recently freed Virginia slaves, who went on to earn a Ph.D in history from Harvard, originally came up with the idea of Negro History Week to encourage black Americans to become more interested in their own history and heritage. Woodson worried that black children were not being taught about their ancestors’ achievements in American schools in the early 1900s.
“If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated,” Woodson said.
Every president since Gerald R. Ford through Donald Trump has issued a statement honoring the spirit of Black History Month.
Ford first honored Black History Week in 1975, calling the recognition “most appropriate,” as the country developed “a healthy awareness on the part of all of us of achievements that have too long been obscured and unsung.” The next year, in 1976, Ford issued the first Black History Month commemoration, saying with the celebration “we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
President Jimmy Carter added in 1978 that the celebration “provides for all Americans a chance to rejoice and express pride in a heritage that adds so much to our way of life.” President Ronald Reagan said in 1981 that “understanding the history of black Americans is a key to understanding the strength of our nation.”
Information regarding local Black History Month activities was provided by Jennifer West, Highland County District Library librarian. The Associated Press contributed to this story.