Why Black History Month

A conservative gadfly said that what America needs is a “White History Month” She stated that white men have greatly contributed to make America the greatest and most powerful country on the planet and they should be celebrated –  just as African-Americans are celebrated for their accomplishments during the month of February.

There is nothing wrong with honoring the accomplishments of white men. In fact, America is very good at honoring white men. There is the Washington monument, the Lincoln memorial, the Jefferson memorial, Grant’s tomb and Mount Rushmore just to name a few of the many monuments honoring white men.

Black History MonthWhite men have been honoring other white men since the formation of the republic, and, up until 1915, the accomplishments of African-Americans towards the building of America were largely ignored until author and historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson called attention to  the history and contributions of African-Americans. African-Americans who did make the pages of American history books were portrayed as inferior and were generally absent from references in most academic works. Accomplishments of Black people were often overlooked and, in many instances, ridiculed. Dr. Woodson, the founder of what is now Black History Month, wanted the accomplishments of Black Americans to become part of every day America; the only reason for the separate month was the omission of black history from the American public or private education curriculum.

Like many injustices African-Americans were forced to endure in their quest for equality, the absence of a documented history of an entire race of people was not by accident. Dr. Woodson revealed in his work “The Mis-Education of the Negro,”
the concept of using history as a weapon and how African-Americans were being culturally indoctrinated rather than taught.

Black boys and girls were led to believe that not one member of their race had ever contributed anything of historical value — and white children were led to believe the same. The indoctrination did not just belittle and make inconsequential the history of black people, it also over-glorified and elevated white accomplishments and, in some cases, misconstrued history.

Black History month was not created to shove “blackness” in the face of white people; it was created so an injustice could be rectified and that a race of people could start learning about their culture and historical worth. Black History Month was created so all Americans could have a better understanding of black life, culture and history.

Bob Dylan sang many years ago, “Some people don’t have enough food on their table and they have to cut something,” and in America today that sentiment is alive and well. There are some who view the world solely through their own eyes, never experiencing a view of the world through the eyes of another. Their life is surrounded with their take of the world and how it should look and feel.

When Jackie Robinson was introduced to the world as the first black man to play in the all white National League, he was warned by many that his life may be in danger, and he was treated as though he had committed a capital offense. His ‘crime’ was that he wanted to play baseball at the highest level — nothing more — and since that historic moment, when he ran out to second base at Ebbets Field, there have been people who have taken offense with any achievement, in any profession, made by black people.

The history of the accomplishments of black Americans are ever-growing as more people realize the richness of black culture and achievement, accomplished under some of the most difficult of circumstances, by some very remarkable people. White America does not need to fear the accomplishments of Black America;  white America should be willing to embrace the cultural and historical success of black people just as they would any other segment of this society — and it will be only through that acceptance that America will become what the writers of the Constitution meant by, one nation under god, with liberty and justice for all…a more perfect Union.