In 1915, Carter G. Woodson, a man known as the father of black history, founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Its goal was to promote research into and publication about the contributions of African Americans.
"Ninety-seven years later, we still have that mission," said Sylvia Cyrus, executive director for the Washington, D.C.-based organization often described by its acronym, ASALH.
Through Sunday, the association is holding its conference -- a five-day event Ms. Cyrus described as the "pinnacle of what we do each year" -- at the Westin Convention Center Hotel Downtown.
The conference, with 1,400 registered participants from around the United States and a few other countries, pulls from a large pool of people interested in black history, ranging from historians to political scientists to teachers.
"It's a wide range of disciplines that are here to interface, and that's what makes it such a great conference," Ms. Cyrus said.
This is the third time that the conference has come to Pittsburgh in its 97 years, said James Stewart, a retired Penn State professor who lives in Bridgeville and is president of the association's executive council.
On Thursday, the association officially named the Western Pennsylvania branch of ASALH after the late Edna B. McKenzie, who was a history professor at Community College of Allegheny County and a journalist for the Pittsburgh Courier, Mr. Stewart said.
Another Pittsburgh woman -- the black civil rights activist and suffragette Daisy Lampkin, who died in 1965 at age 82 -- was to be the subject of a talk given today by Bettye Collier-Thomas, a professor in the history department at Temple University in Philadelphia.
For the first time this year, the theme of the conference is black women in American culture and history, a topic that was "virtually unknown" in the late 1960s and 1970s, even as attention turned to the women's liberation movement, Ms. Collier-Thomas said.
The conference's theme, she said, "symbolizes that we have fully arrived in terms of African-American women's history."
"You cannot do history, and do it well, without including African-American women."