Celebrating African-American History

Since our founding in 1844, the Y has provided safe, welcoming spaces where people of diverse backgrounds can find resources and a supportive community to develop their talents and reach their full potential. 

James Weldon Johnson

We believe that in a diverse world, we are stronger when we are inclusive and our doors are open to all.

We celebrate the rich contributions of African-Americans to the Y and to the cultural fabric of our diverse nation.

In 1853 in Washington, D.C., the first YMCA for African Americans was founded by Anthony Bowen, a freed slave.

In 1915, Carter G. Woodson met with a small group at the Wabash YMCA in Chicago and formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). This laid the foundation that would create Negro History and Literature Week, renamed Negro Achievement Week, later Negro History Week and eventually Black History Month.

Here on the First Coast, the Y established the Johnson Family YMCA (previously known as the colored Y) in 1948. The Johnson Y got its current name in 1957, with permission from the widow of James Weldon Johnson, a Jacksonville native who had a long career as an educator, poet, author, diplomat and civil rights leader.

To learn more about the history of the Y and our impact on American culture, visit The Y: History.