As we approach the beginning of another Black History Month celebration, I can’t help but think about its origination. I can appreciate Black History Month’s foundational roots, in that one of my favorite African American authors was responsible for its inception.
In 1926, Carter G. Woodson pioneered the celebration of “Negro History Week”, which he designated for the second week in February, to coincide with marking the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
After “Negro History Week” became widely accepted, it was extended to a full month; which we now celebrate as Black History Month.
Black History Month is acknowledged by some and ignored by others; and while it’s acknowledged by most people in this country, I believe it’s a travesty that anyone, especially members of the Black community, have chosen to limit their historical focus to the shortest month of the year.
Black history should be celebrated and acknowledged in America, 365 days a year-7 days a week-24 hours a day; the very same way the founding fathers are heralded and celebrated daily.
Carter G. Woodson devoted the majority of his life to historical research and towards working to preserve the history of African Americans in this country.
Woodson believed that, “Race prejudice is merely the logical result of tradition, the inevitable outcome of thorough instruction to the effect that the Negro has never contributed anything to the progress of mankind.”
Woodson accumulated a collection of thousands of artifacts and publications because he felt that the contributions of African Americans in this country were being overlooked, ignored and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.
Black history should be highlighted in all of the standard textbooks that are distributed to students in schools, colleges and universities across this country.
I know that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman and a few other Black historical figures are briefly mentioned in textbooks across the country; but there are so many other Black Americans who’ve made major contributions to our society and they deserve the same top-billing that Christopher Columbus gets for finding a land that was already inhabited by people.
Why should the contributions of Benjamin Banneker who helped survey the city of Washington, D.C. or the discoveries of hundreds of new uses for fruits and vegetables (particularly peanuts) by George Washington Carver, be limited to one month?
Why should Charles Drew, who pioneered the techniques for Blood Banking and Blood Transfusions, be limited to only 28 days of discussion in February and then get archived until the next year?
Why shouldn’t all students in the U.S. know about Edward Alexander Bouchet, the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in Physics from Yale and the 6th American to earn a Ph.D. in Physics in the U.S.; and yet with all of those credentials couldn’t even get a job because he was Black?
These are but a few of the many contributions these Black Americans had on our wonderful country, and these Black Americans should be embraced and exalted to the highest level of significance year-round, not just in February.
I will never accept the premise that I, as a Black man, should be thankful that I am “given” an entire month to celebrate Black history, when I know Black history is such a major part of American history.
I believe that everyone, regardless of race, should:
- Advocate for an increase in the amount of Black history information being taught from textbooks to students in every school, college and university in the U.S.
- Start teaching Black history to our children in our homes
- Volunteer to share information and history with young people about the wonderful Black contributors to our society; both past and present, at schools, churches and in the community
- Volunteer to participate in a Black history program during Black History Month and year-round
- Join and/or financially support groups that have an emphasis on Black history education
- Further our own education about Black history through reading books and Internet research
I applaud everyone that makes it a commitment to highlight the contributions of Black people during Black History Month.
I challenge us to make Black history a year-long tribute that will make an educational impact in the lives of our youth and on every American citizen for years to come.