“African American” History month is an extension of Negro History Week, which was founded by Carter G. Woodson. The first celebration of Negro History Week was in February of 1926. The month of February was chosen so that the celebration would coincide with the birthdates of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglas.
Carter G. Woodson was born in Virginia, in 1875, to former slaves. He grew up to become a Harvard trained historian who believed that he could only escape poverty through education. He also believed that un-denied truth would prevail over prejudice, so he set out to establish a way to disseminate the historical contributions of “African Americans”. Through his determination, along with the determination of Minister Jesse E. Moorland, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) was established. It was this association that sponsored the first Negro History Week in 1926. Today, this association is known as the Association for the study of “African-American” Life and History.
In 1976, the celebration of Negro History week, expanded into “African American” History Month, coinciding with the nation’s bicentennial. Starting with Gerald Ford, every American President since 1976 has officially designated the month of February as “African American” History Month. The United Kingdom and Canada have also designated a month to celebrate this history.
I applaud Carter G. Woodson’s efforts to make sure that the more than substantial contributions made by Black Americans would not be lost. However, by this time, the contributions made by Blacks, from Crispus Attucks to Dr. Ben Carson, should be taught in mainstream education, and be a part of the normal American history curriculum. If this history is not being taught as part of the main curriculum... why not? If it is being done (I don’t believe that it is), why do we need a month dedicated to Blacks?
To separate Blacks from AMERICAN history is a major insult in my eyes. Those Blacks WERE Americans who deserve the same recognition of any other American making history. For many Blacks, they were not even considered human, so separating them at this point in history books is not only an insult, it’s unforgivable. It’s a form of segregation. Out ancestors, of All hues, worked to mold this country into the greatest nation on the planet, so, why are we still carving out a month of each year for some? It’s an insult as it suggests that Blacks in history are only a footnote.
I’m not looking for special consideration of Blacks…. that’s what Black History month is. I’m suggesting that someone like Captain Robert Smalls should be discussed when discussing the Civil War… he certainly earned his spot in the history books. Come on! It’s 2012! Blacks who are happy with anything less than equality in the history books have fallen to the soft bigotry of lowered expectations.
Perhaps the first step towards integrating all Americans in history books is for Blacks and other minorities to stop hyphenating. Stop referring to yourself as ________-Americans. We’re all Americans. Our ancestors sacrificed a lot for us to be here, so embrace it.
Mr. Woodson was correct when he said “un-denied truth would prevail over prejudice”. It is the opinion of some that truth has been denied; seemingly on purpose. It seems impossible that this copious and rich history has been evaded by accident. Perhaps some are afraid that true history shows Blacks as strong, Christian, fighters, achievers, business owners, military personnel, authors, doctors, lawyers, slave owners, slave traders, and politicians (amongst other things). I guess it would be hard to promote a mentality of victimhood once you know the stock from which you came… and truth!
I believe that if our children were taught that Whites were the first slaves in this country; that the first slave ship was rejected; that slavery was initially determined by religious and class status, not skin color; that Antonio the Negro was the first documented, outright slave owner; that Blacks were more than slaves; that the Republican party was formed to end slavery and that the Democrat party started the KKK to harass Republicans… we would begin to heal as a nation in ways you could not imagine. That prejudice that exudes from many Americans, of every shade these days, would be a rare occurrence. Truth must have it‘s day if we hope to unite as a nation.
Our history is well rounded. There is a lot of beauty mixed in with the ugly, but to this day, too much focus is given to the ugly parts of our history. Until unadulterated, true history is taught, we will retain the negative impact of racial divide and prejudice in our society, because even if you can teach history in a day, a week, a month or for years… when it’s revised, hidden or stolen… what good is it?
I challenge Black parents to ask your children who Crispus Attucks, Captain Robert Smalls, Phyllis Wheatley, Elizabeth Keckly, Rev. Jonas Clark, James Armistead Lafayette, Benjamin Banneker, John Rock or Antonio the Negro was. If they don’t know, not only has the school system and society failed, so have you because the responsibility of educating starts and ends in the home.