YMCA Black History

We honor the Black leaders who helped move the YMCA toward greater inclusion and equity for all. See a few of their stories. 

Anthony Bowen 

A former slave and the first Black American to become a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office, Anthony Bowen founded the first YMCA for the Black community in Washington, D.C., in 1853, eight years before the Civil War. Additional Black Ys and college chapters were established in the following decades, with membership reaching 28,000 nationwide by the mid-1920s. During the 1950-60s, these YMCAs provided a safe place for civil rights leaders to organize and stay in a segregated south. Learn more on the impact of the first African-American YMCA.

Carter G. Goodson 

In 1915, Carter G. Woodson attended a national celebration of the 50th anniversary of emancipation in Chicago. Inspired by the thousands of Black Americans who traveled across the country to see exhibits highlighting the progress of their people since the end of slavery, Woodson met at the Wabash YMCA in Chicago with a small group and formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. This began the foundation that would create Negro History and Literature Week, later renamed Black History Month. 

View the chronology of important dates in the history of African Americans and the YMCA

Read the blog post A Conversation with Giovanni Forrest, Chair of the YMCA of Metro Denver's Staff Racial Equity Committee.

Inspiring children’s books on Black History:
2021 Activities

February 24. Register for the Unlearning Systemic Racism webinar and hear from the Y’s African American CEOs on this critical topic. 

February 26. At the YMCA, we stand against injustice and racism in all forms. You are invited to wear black on February 26. 

YMCA Black History Month