In 1926 historian Carter G. Woodson along with the Association for the Study of Negro Life (now called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History) and chose the second week of February to be “Negro History Week”, with the specific aim of encouraging the coordinated teaching of Black American history in the public schools. As you could probably guess, it was not met with much enthusiasm.
But in 1969, the leaders of the Black United Students at Kent State University proposed that it be expanded to the whole month of February, and the first celebration of Black History Month took place at Kent in 1970.
Eventually in 1976 it was officially recognized by our gov’t as part of the US Bicentennial where President Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Now some may be wondering why I’m giving a brief history lesson here and the reason is when I hear the talk about Black History month, I’m always curious as to if most folks really even know how it came about! I mean, it could’ve very easily been left at a week. Or we could’ve had no time at all to recognize, honor and acknowledge those who helped shape this country.
Now to those who complain about receiving the shortest month of the year, Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life chose that week because it coincided with two prominent dates: Feb 12 (Abraham Lincoln’s bday) and Feb 14 (Frederick Douglass’s bday) which Black communities had celebrated since the late 19th century.
Now I agree, the history of Black Americans should not be relegated to simply one month and it doesn’t have to! Take it upon yourself to celebrate and acknowledge our history throughout the year! No one is stopping you! But what is the point of complaining about this month and viewing it as a negative?
Let’s be real for a minute. How many of our young sistas and brothas have a healthy understanding of their history? And when I say history I am not speaking of slavery– slavery was a part of history it is not our ENTIRE history! That does not sum up Black American History!! Yes we were forced over here, enslaved, tortured, murdered, raped… but guess what? We survived! We thrived!
Yes our ancestors were still struggling when they were brought here, but in the midst of all that terror and oppression they managed to help shape and cultivate this country. We still are. And instead of complaining about the short length of time we “officially” have to educate ourselves and acknowledge those before us, let’s make the best use of this month by truly honoring those who made it possible for us to be where we are at right at this moment in time.
We may be struggling and trying to find ways to live in this corrupt society, but remember how it used to be not too long ago. Remember how it was for your parent and grandparents. Think about what they sacrificed for us. Acknowledge them and everyone else who has made the most beautiful contributions to this country. Understand and never forget what happened in the past so we can do better in the future. Use our history to inspire and motivate each new generation. Just saying…