Black History Month is an annual celebration and remembrance of African Americans that have struggled through adversity to achieve freedom and independence in this white-centered country. Black History Month has become the most celebrated cultural holiday on the calendars, said LaGarrett J. King, an associate professor of social studies education at the University of Missouri. Black History Month gives an opportunity for every black and white person in America to appreciate and celebrate the accomplishments of black influences who have changed our world for the better: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson and so many more people that I wish I had the time to name. While schools do teach black history and the importance of Black History Month, it is a very transmuted version of black history. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “There’s a lack of understanding of what is actually black history, what is historically important to white people is not historically important to black people. July 4th, 1776, means nothing historically to black people.” While independence day is important to the nation and understanding U.S. history, there is also a level of U.S. history, specifically black U.S. history that just is not taught. It is, “Black history from a white-centered perspective,” King said. It glazes over particular parts and even leaves out information, and if you don’t believe me, I challenge you to do your own research and tell me what you find.
Carter G. Woodson is the reason we celebrate Black History Month. He was born December 19th, 1875 in New Canton, Virginia, and died April 3rd, 1950. He was the son of former slaves and spent a good portion of his childhood working in coal mines. Carter did attend high school in his late teens but he proved to be a very successful student. Woodson completed four years of high school in only two and at 20 years old, he attended Berea College and graduated in 1903. Woodson continued on to receive not only his master’s degree in history from the University of Chicago but also a doctorate from Harvard. Mind you, Woodson was becoming a very successful and educated black man in the middle of the Jim Crow laws which is very hard to do given the fact that these laws were meant to keep black Americans at a distinct disadvantage. Woodson served as principal of the Armstrong Manual Training School in Washington D.C. as well as the West Virginia collegiate institute according to The Biography. Carter G. Woodson had noticed that many various history textbooks have completely and utterly ignored America’s black population. Confused and upset by this, Woodson took matters into his own hands and decided to write in black Americans into the history textbooks. You might be wondering how Woodson came to accomplish this. I mean, what he was attempting to do wasn’t exactly going to be the easiest task; remember, this was the 1920s. This is how Woodson came to accomplish establishing this month of celebration: Woodson succeeded in establishing the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Along with this, he founded a publication, The Journal of Negro History. This journal became the group’s well-respected publication, according to CNN. In the year 1926, Woodson established Negro History Week, and in 1976; 50 years later, Negro History Week expanded into Black History Month. It took 50 years to make this change because “In order to make the argument, in order to make the claim about Black genius, about Black excellence, you have to build the space in which to do that. There is no room.” Martha Jones once said.
Now, why February? Why the second month of the year? February was not just picked at random; a name out of a hat type of thing. Carter G. Woodson chose February because in this month are the birthdays of two men who have greatly made an impact and influenced black Americans. One of them being President Abraham Lincoln, and the other being Frederick Douglass. Douglass escaped slavery in 1838 and went on to become an abolitionist and civil rights leader. His birth date is not known but Douglass decided to celebrate it on February 14th. President Abraham Lincoln; born on February 12th, signed the Emancipation Proclamation which would obliterate slavery.
Now that you have the history behind Black History Month, we can discuss why we have a Black History Month in the first place. I have heard many people say that just having a Black History Month instead of also having a White History Month is confusing or unfair. As a person of color speaking on behalf of every other person of color, we have had our fair share of unfairness in this world. Black History Month is not unfair, it is a reflection of what black Americans have gone through and what we have fought for to achieve the freedom we have now. See, that’s the difference between black and white; whites didn’t have to fight for their freedom. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did not preach his dream to 250,000 people and Harriet Tubman did not travel 90 miles on foot back and forth 19 times to save 300 slaves and Rosa Parks didn’t give her seat up to a white man just for people to start saying that what we have earned is unfair. It is okay that we don’t have a white history month. We don’t need one because whites do not just have every month, but every year, and that is the way it has always been. Black History month serves more than just a reflection but also as a call for more diversity in every aspect in the United States. We live in a world where practically every month is white history month. We live in a society where black trends get ripped off by white influences. The standard of whiteness is scribbled all over. Black History Month serves as a nationwide acknowledgment and recognition and remembrance of the struggles undertaken in black history. It is put up on display for everyone to see so that we may all celebrate how far we have come and how far we will continue to go.
Story By: Hannah Trollope'22
“For me, education means to inspire people to live more abundantly, to learn to begin with life as they find it and make it better”
Carter G. Woodson
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“No I’m not an American. I’m one out of the 22 million black people who are victims of Americanism”
“Believe in yourself, learn, and never stop wanting to build a better world”
Mary Mcleod Bethune
“I would like to be remembered as person who wanted to be free… so other people would also be free”
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed unit it is faced”