Every year we are constantly reminded of our past, and the contributions our fellow brothers and sisters the Black community have made in society. What is Black History Month? Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, is an annual observance in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands and other countries of the world. It began as a way for remembering important people and events in the history of the African Diaspora.
Said Carter G. Woodson, the Black historian and originator of Negro History Week in 1926: “If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thoughts of the world.”
That is, no amount of legislation can grant you quality if a nation does not value you. He believed that an appreciation of a people’s history was a prerequisite to equality. But do we celebrate Black history throughout the entire year or even the full month?
Nobody has assumed a more prominent job in helping all Americans know the Black past than Woodson, when he created what was first called Negro History Week to guarantee that black students get an appreciation and understanding of their history. Woodson’s goal was to expand upon this understanding and further stimulate enthusiasm for the study of Black contributions to the world. Woodson had two goals.: One was to use history to prove to White America that Blacks had played important roles in the creation of America and the world, and thereby deserve to be treated equally as citizens. In essence, Woodson, by celebrating heroic Black figures (inventors, entertainers, soldiers, etc.), hoped to prove our worth and by proving our worth, he believed that equality would soon follow.
Underappreciated and perpetually experiencing trickle down citizenship wherein progress only reaches us if the nation’s cup runneth over — a Black American story. There is no argument that much racial progress has occurred over the course of the nation’s history.
Black History Month was created to compel recognition by a stubborn nation of the invaluable role Black people have played in the creation and sustainability of the United States. The question should not be whether we celebrate for a month or an entire year, but that we should recognize and show more appreciation for contributions by Black people to destroy the dividing prejudice facing Blacks, not just for a month, or a year, but for a lifetime.
As Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “It may be true that law cannot change the heart, but it can’t restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from the lynching me.”
Yet Trayvon Martin, James Byrd, Eric Garner and Latasha Harlins are not here. Policy is necessary, however, the politics of Black history tells us that policy is not enough. Through recognizing and respecting the dignity and equality of Black Americans, we can deliver the nation and Black History Month is a means to this end.
African American History Month, with a little tweaking, is still the direction of change and hope that is sorely needed in this world.
The chains of slavery are gone but we are all not yet free. The great diversity within the Black community needs the African American past to remind us of not just how far we have traveled, but how far we must go.