"American history, as I learned it, was just like a fairy tale. It seemed like all of the facts about blacks had been separated out," a 60-year-old white man said during a discussion of the effects of racism on blacks.
"yeah, but we (blacks) didn't do the separating," a young black man retorted, as muffled laughs rippled throughout the largely black audience.
The comments were typical of those that followed a speech given by clincial psychologist Deborah L. Matory at a program sponsored by the Federal Supply Service part of General Services Administration in celebration of Black History Month.
Mrs. Matory's speech, which was rich on African culture and Afro-American history, ended on a critical note, when she said that white males "still maintain on air of superiority to blacks" and are unwilling to share their decision-mking roles with blackes.
As the speaker delivered her indictment, some of the white male members of the audience of about 50 people looked down at the desks where they were sitting and twiddled their thumbs or stared out of the 10th-story window.
"We wanted these programs to be more than just a recitation of the achievements of blacks," said Bob Richardson, director of the General Services Administration's Equal Employment Opportunity office, which organized the month-long series of programs for the agency.
"We are trying to use Black History Month as an opportunity to bring some new awareness and sensitivity to the people - black and white - who work in this agency," Richardson said. "And we want to focus on the things which have a direct impact on their work relationships."
The General Services Administration and other federal agencies have prepared elaborate programs and events designed to examine the status of blacks in America.
The first formal celebrations of the role of blacks in United States history - called Negro History Week - were initiated in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, who is generally known as the "father of Negro history."
"Mr. Woodson believed there should be no such thing as Negro history, but there should be the Negro in history," said Nerissa Milton, research analyst at the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, which sponsors Black History Month.
"But since the achievements of the Negro was omitted from U.S. history, Mr. Woodson believed we should use Negro history week each year to dramatize the accomplishments of black leaders," Mrs. Milton said.
To mark the Bicentennial in 1976, the association decided to extend the Black History celebration frome one week to the full month of February each year.
As a result of the expanded celebration, Black history programs that once consisted largely of tributes to black leaders of the past, how focus more on the obstacles that hinder the advancement of minorities.
"Blacks have a right to be paranoid with respect to our racial treatment," Matory said in response to a question from the auidence. "Most of us still harbor feelings of resentment of you who continue to perpetuate the sins of your fathers."
A white women speaking from the audience said she had learned a great deal about racial conflict from such television presentations as "Roots" and the movie, "Gues Who's Coming to Dinner."
"I think we all need to write (the television networks) and thank them for such program," she said. "We learn a lot about each other and we learn to respect each other."
Nancy Simmons, a secretary at the Federal Supply Service, said she came to the Tuesday program, held in a Crystal City office building, mainly to get out of the office for a few minutes. "Once I started listening to the discussion, I found a lot of concerns about job-related racial problems being refreshed in my mind," she said.
Some Black history programs are going beyond the usual topics of discussion. At the GSA main auditorium yesterday, Anne Holloway, special assistant to Unted Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, spoke on "The Impact of Foreign Policy on the Struggle of Black People for Equal Opportunity."
The Education Office of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare currently has a photographic exhibit in the lobby at 400 Maryland Ave., SW, showing historic sites in Alamance County, N.C., where the Murray family - ancestors of "Roots" author Alex Haley - settled.
The exhibit is among dozens throughout the city sponsored by government and private agencies.
Among the events planned by D.C. public schools is a program at Brightwood Elementary School 13th and Nicholson Streets, NW, at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 23. Second-graders will sing, recite and parade, portraying outstanding black personalities, in a presentation called, a "Black Awareness Program."