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Originally posted on Unapologetically Undefined.
When the 1st of February hit, I was ready! I was ready to see the posts on Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram celebrating Black History, the funny memes that would follow, my dashboard filled with melanin–I was amped.
Now more than ever in my life, I am more enlightened. I am actively engaging in the discussion of my history and learning new facts that I would have never learned about in school.
As I strolled down my time line, I was met with:
“There’s a reason why Black History Month is the shortest month of the year–it is pointless.”
“It is racist! Why is there not a White History Month?”
“There shouldn’t be a Black History Month, Black History should be celebrated yearlong”
To comment on Black History Month, one must know the history of its creation. Black History Month, sometimes referred to as National African American History Month, grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of historian, author and journalist, Carter Godwin Woodson.
Woodson’s Association established “Negro History Week” as a celebration afforded to Black students, teachers, institutions and organizations across segregated America. It afforded them opportunities to display what they had learned during the previous year’s study of what he called “Negro life and history.”
Woodson chose the second week in February for the celebration of “Negro History Week,” because it contained the birthdays Frederick Douglass (February 14) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12). Woodson believed that integrating factually sound research on the history of African people, in both formal and informal educational institutions, would ultimately aid in the ongoing struggle to transform American and world social, economic, and cultural conditions.
There you have it. The creation of “Negro History Week” was not a means of segregation but rather a means of integrating and learning by not only black students, teachers and institutions but white students, teachers and institutions as well.
Often in many institutions, the curriculum discussing African, African-American and Black history begins with slavery. The discussion then moves on to discuss the Jim Crow laws, Civil War, the Abolitionist Movement, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King.
The great Malcolm X was one of the first to remind us that our history “did not begin in chains.” Somehow, the world has disregarded not only the great people of Ancient Africa, but also the great things they accomplished.
Often times Black people have to self-teach themselves their history. Mainly because ourhistory is not mainstream, it has long since been overshadowed and denied.
The bitterness towards Black History Month is understandable because it stems from a lack of knowledge and true understanding of its origins and importance still to this day. Black History Month celebrations are supposed to make a difference in the perceptions and attitudes of blacks and whites. For both blacks and whites, black history offers a glimpse of the achievements of black culture in all its cultural forms-African, Caribbean, European, and American. In doing so, it offers cultural touchstones as a corrective to prejudice and stereotyping.
The raw reality is history can never be limited to one set day, time or month as history is forever progressing. Black successes and achievements happens every day. To acknowledge such achievements and successes is a way to counteract those who seek to diminish the achievement of blacks.
Black History should and needs to be incorporated into classroom curriculums by educating our youth on black history, black success and achievements we are not only providing black youth with people to aspire to be but also learn from. We are also providing white students with the opportunity to learn about different cultures. We are actively engaging in cultural competency and diversity discussion. While this is not to say this would combat racial issues but it’s a start.
Ashley Jeannot ’17