Black History Month – An American Necessity

28 Feb

Carter G. WoodsonRay: What you probably know is that Black History Month takes place every year during the month of February. What isn’t common knowledge is when it started and why it started.

Here are the facts:

* In 1926, “Negro History Week” began as one of the earliest known instances where Black history was recognized

* The creation of Negro History Week is largely credited to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who at the time was the director of the Association for the study of Negro Life and History and member of the fraternal organization Omega Psi Phi

* The Negro History Week was established to demonstrate that African Americans had made significant contributions to societies around the world and also because of the serious lack Black history in commonly referenced historical literature.
* The Negro History Week movement had become widely popular amongst African Americans in the United States and even amongst elected officials by the time of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. It was also during the Civil Rights Movements that demands for a month long celebration of Black history prompted the creation of the Black History Month as we know it today.

In recent times, many people have been wondering about the current status of Black History Month and are asking such questions as is it still relevant, should it include other ethnic groups, and isn’t it racist to have a Black History Month in the first place?

I think these are important questions and ones that we should attempt to address, primarily because we represent the next generation of leadership in America.

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Seth: I’ve always found the facts surrounding the birth of Negro History Week and its growth to what has become Black History Month particularly interesting when thinking about the common complaint that “they gave us the shortest month of the year.”

Black History Month remains as relevant and necessary today as it was in 1926. The contributions that Blacks have made to the world remain important, and largely unknown even to Blacks, more so to non-Blacks. On a recent episode of Jeopardy during one of their “Teen” challenges, only one of the three contestants was able to correctly identify Thurgood Marshall as an accomplished Black litigator who won numerous cases in front of the Supreme Court and would later become U. S. Solicitor General. Another contestant was possibly due partial credit for guessing Clarence Thomas, the only other famous Black name associated with the nation’s highest court. Thurgood Marshall is a story of an American hero for his role in Civil Rights and his ascent to Supreme Court Justice, a story every American child should be taught in school. I could go on about the importance of our story (every American should herald Black contributions to this nation) but I’d rather focus on other questions.

Honestly, I don’t know much about contributions of other minorities in America. Maybe every race should have their own history month, but I think this would only lead to problems and create divisiveness. If the history of America wasn’t taught in our schools from such a Euro centric view, we wouldn’t be considering this now. However, that is sadly only one of a litany of reforms needed to improve public education in America.

Blacks have been integral to the successes of this country for a longer period of time than other minorities, and it can be argued that Blacks have suffered more for the building of America than other minorities. Obviously Native Americans could claim that distinction as well but what it comes down to is there is simply more of a story to tell of Blacks in America than other groups. Any claims that BHM is racist are ridiculous; no one would dare say teaching the accomplishments of Albert Einstein or Henry Ford is racist. Those who worked to have this month thought it was ‘our time.’ BHM is important, but we should be moving to talking about Black history all year as American history, and we should include the contributions of other minority groups. BHM was created to ensure the inclusion of Blacks in the portrait of America, for democracy is best served through greater diversity. Therefore, Dr. Woodson should be looked at not only as a hero for Blacks, but minorities in America. Surely, he would encourage total inclusion of all minority groups and champion multiculturalism.

Dr. Woodson started Negro History Week because if our story isn’t told, we will easily be forgotten as the important shapers of history that we are. It has to be our duty as individuals to seek out Black history. Start with your own family; learn its story. Who you are, where you come from and so on. It is especially important for Blacks because so much of our genealogy is unknown. Reclaim your past and add to our story.

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Ray: I think you’re absolutely on target with this one. I want to reinforce the idea that Black history needs to become a part of American history. This is true for every culture in America. In fact, history includes everything and everyone that already existed. In a perfect world, no detail about American history would be omitted from the books. But in reality, there are many omissions due to the racist atmosphere that plagued previous generations of Americans.

One of the biggest lessons that I take away from BHM is that it serves as a constant reminder that the world does not have a clear and accurate view of historical events. This is significant because there are many people today who have no clue about the extent of their ancestor’s achievements and shortcomings. This stands true for all Americans because a young black man not knowing about the accomplishments of Benjamin Banneker is just as much an atrocity as a young white man not knowing knowing in depth the details and immorality of Jim Crow laws. When we as a people forget our mistakes, we’re bound to repeat them. When we forget our victories, we forget how to play the game.

On behalf of America, we are extremely proud of and thankful for Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Because of his efforts, America’s complete story may be reconciled to the truth.

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4 Responses to “Black History Month – An American Necessity”

  1. mommaspeaks March 2, 2008 at 5:38 pm #

    I do not agree that we should celebrate nor have BHM. Hold on, let me explain. Black history is a rich history. Children of all colors are taught the history of one ethnic group in 28 days. In those 28 days, our children learn about Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Mr. Douglass, George Washington Carver, etc for 12 years. Come on… what hapepned to Zora, Romare, Rebecca Coles, Mr. Garrison and the list could go on and on. But more importantly, what happened to the other 11 months. Our children learn about science, math, history, literature, yet the accomplishments of African Americans in those fields are “held over” for February.

    It is important that parents make accessible to their children Black publications besides Ebony, Jet and Vibe. It is important for parents to be proactive that the important person their child must do research on is African American. It is important that parents visit historic African American museums, churches and neighborhoods and teach their children their rich history. For our children to learn their history, it is the parent’s responsibilty 365 days a year with schools and other organizations providing support.

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