Why promoting black history one month a year isn't good enough
“Black history is everyone’s history.” - Andrea C. Imafidon
In 1926, Carter G. Woodson, the father of black history, dedicated one week in February as “Negro History Week” which evolved to “Black History Month.” Black History Month is oddly celebrated during the shortest and coldest month. Many often ask, is one month enough? No, one month is not enough because black history is everyone’s history.
Black History Month is dedicated to learning more about the history of black culture, historical figures, literature and being black in America.
As an African-American woman, I was taught about black history at home and in certain school settings — depending on the teacher and class subject. I remember sitting in my AP U.S. History class wondering why black history begins with slavery and skips to the constant struggle of black Americans.
What about Black Wall Street, where black Americans in Tulsa, Oklahoma had their own schools, groceries, banks and economy? No mention. What about the state of historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) and why it was so imperative to start these higher learning institutions for free slaves and the descendants of slave masters’ children? Only one or two mentions about HBCUs in the modern textbooks.
Schools have a tendency to skip over black history as if it is meaningless, forgettable and hopeless. In school, black history is taught in watered-down, downtrodden and biased views from people who have no connection with black people and black culture.
Black history taught in schools has no mentions about Africa being rich in resources and culture or about its importance to other civilizations. Africa is only mentioned when the transatlantic slave trade started. It is often mentioned in history books to shed light on negativity, poverty, “savage behavior” and the oil refineries.
Black history is everyday history. One month is not nearly enough because black culture, black people and black history are complex, with a lot to learn from, and have helped to shape and build America. Black history is constantly evolving because historians are constantly piecing the history pieces together. We have history from Africa, the West Indies and other countries where indigenous black people settled. Students shouldn’t have to major in African-American studies or attend a historically black college to receive unbiased and unadulterated lessons in black history.
Black History Month is often recognized only by African-American people because members of other ethnicities and racial groups may not feel black history is important to American or world history. Black History Month community programs are usually attended by politicians, community leaders, some black people and some curious onlookers who truly want to learn more about black culture and black history. It is challenging to find a black history community program where I live in New England, despite being surrounded by lots of black history.
Many people don’t find having a black history program important for the community to learn more about the history. Usually, Black History Month celebrations are not well publicized and promoted for whatever reason.
I would like to propose that we should celebrate black history every day and every month so we can gather together as a diverse and inclusive community to celebrate one another, because we are all affected by black history. There are so many notable black figures to learn about besides Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington and Malcolm X. There is more to black history than slavery. We had the Harlem Renaissance, Tuskegee Airmen, Black Wall Street, the start of historically black colleges and universities, President Barack Obama becoming the first black president and the list continues. These historical figures and events are important to black culture and black people and should be included in textbooks and class curriculum. It is impossible to cram centuries of black history into one month out the year.
Everyone should care about Black History Month! Black History Month is for everyone!